The four-year-long mission to create a microgrid utility in this community along Lake Erie has taken a timely step toward reality with Cuyahoga County Council leaders approving a 10-year contract with Compass Energy Platform this week.
Compass will act as the utility operator and will begin pre-construction engineering work in January now that the contract is finalized and approved. Construction on the first three microgrids could begin in 2025 with completion and operation expected in 2026 and 2027, Compass Energy Platform CEO Rick Bolton said in response to questions from Microgrid Knowledge.
Cuyahoga County started its path toward developing the concept of a microgrid utility in 2019. Now, along with $1.8 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding secured by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Compass Energy Platform will bring its own capital and engineering partners along to help build and operate the projects beginning with the Euclid, Brooklyn and Aerozone sites, the latter adjacent to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
“Today, as we face dynamic challenges presented by climate change, it is increasingly important that we commit to policies and strategies that protect our environment, support our economy, and move our communities toward a better future,” Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne said in a statement. “I look forward to what Cuyahoga Green Energy will accomplish with Compass Energy Platform as our partner.”
While the discussions go back to 2019, the Cuyahoga County government created Cuyahoga Green Energy in the fall of 2021, reportedly becoming the first new county utility in more than 75 years nationwide, officials say. The utility will unite the county’s plan for connecting community resiliency to a focus on renewable energy.
The district microgrids will be small in scale and able to disconnect and operate independently from the main grid. During outages, control systems will enable the microgrids to operate in “island” mode and keep power continuous.
“Cuyahoga County is taking a major step forward through its new microgrid utility, facilitating sustainable and resilient energy at a municipal scale, providing security to businesses and residents while easing the consequences of climate change,” Compass Energy Platform’s Bolton added. “Compass is so excited to be a part of this innovative effort. We look forward to working with the County to establish and operate the utility, along with developing the initial microgrid projects on which the utility will depend.”
While traditional microgrids typically serve single customers or a small number of adjacent customers, Cuyahoga Green Energy’s community microgrids will serve multiple interconnected customers. These customers will share resources, including solar panels and batteries, so that energy can be used more strategically.
The initial utility microgrids will focus on commercial and industrial customers and will expand in later stages to include schools, grocery stores, fire departments, and other government and community loads, the county’s statement reads.
Compass Energy Platform will work together with Arup Engineering, which earlier contributed to the preliminary assessment done on the proposed project this year. In January, Compass will release a request for proposals to prequalify additional engineering, procurement and construction companies to partner on the projects.
In 2022, Cuyahoga County Green Energy selected Compass Energy Platform to help it develop the microgrid utility hub concept. The move is part of a wide economic development plan in the region.
The county also issued a 2022 request for information to aid in executing this vision. Companies providing insights, in addition to Compass, included Eaton, Ameresco, Enchanted Rock, Mesa Solutions, PowerSecure, S&C Electric and Schneider Electric.