Maryland RFI Seeks Microgrid Information to Help Electrify Bus Fleet

June 29, 2021
The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has issued a request for information (RFI) for firms that can plan, provide, operate, and maintain facilities for bus electrification, and it is considering incorporating microgrids into the project.

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has issued a request for information (RFI) for firms that can plan, provide, operate, and maintain facilities for bus electrification, and it is considering incorporating microgrids into the project.

Zero-emission bus demonstration. Photo courtesy of Maryland Transit Administration

The due date for responding is July 21.

The RFI (RFI-21-064-EQ) issued June 23 by the MDOT’s transit administration, also seeks information about charging infrastructure needed to run a new fleet of zero-emission buses. The goal is to have 249 electric buses by the end of 2028 and 375 by the end of 2030, according to the RFI.

The agency expects to receive public funding for the project but has not identified the amount or sources yet, said Kate Sylvester, acting deputy administrator for the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA).

Seeks private partners for microgrids

One portion of the RFI specifically seeks information about microgrids that could be developed by a private partner, including “resilience and microgrid features, such as backup power and battery storage” and on-route charging infrastructure. The transit agency also seeks information about energy procurement, on-site energy generation, revenue generating activities and charging infrastructure for employees and other vehicles.

“MDOT MTA is considering the possibility of including development of a microgrid in our procurement process. MDOT MTA has not yet determined the number of contracts,” said Sylvester.

The agency is evaluating energy-as-a-service contracts during its preprocurement process and is speaking with peer agencies that have contracted for energy-as-a-service.

Microgrid projects not new to Maryland

The state of Maryland has been active in microgrid development, awarding $566,000 in microgrid grants in May and more than $1 million last year, with an eye toward creating replicable and scalable microgrid models. In addition, Montgomery County, Maryland, has developed microgrids at public safety and correctional facilities that are often cited as examples of how communities can develop the technology effectively. In May, the county selected AlphaStruxure — a joint venture between Schneider Electric and the Carlyle Group — to build a bus depot microgrid that will include electric bus chargers.

“MDOT MTA expects that industry respondents will describe solutions, including a potential energy-as-a-service mechanism,” Sylvester said.

Receiving information about project finance is an important component of the RFI.

“As part of the potential scope of work, MDOT MTA has explicitly listed financing options for EVSE [electric vehicle supply equipment] and charging equipment, and microgrid financing is something we expect to develop more specific goals for through the preprocurement process,” she said.

The solicitation also seeks information about energy and charge management, including demand response, demand management, time-of-use optimization and participation in energy markets.

The transit authority is interested in charging management software procurement and integration, along with revenue enhancement options, including grants and rebates. Utility interface and interconnection plus integration support for the new bus fleet are also on the RFI’s list.

The agency is developing a phased approach to meeting its goals. It will create a pilot project involving seven zero-emission buses at its Kirk facility in 2022. Sixty-two electric buses will be deployed at the Kirk facility in 2025. One hundred thirty two zero-emission buses are expected to be delivered between 2026 and 2028 at the Kirk facility and its northwest facility.

Maryland’s future: Zero-emissions buses, hydrogen likely

After the 2025 fleet is acquired, MDOT MTA will only procure zero-emission buses. Any diesel and diesel-hybrid buses will be retired at the end of their 12-year useful life, according to the RFI.

The RFI says that it is also a high likelihood that the agency may install hydrogen fuel cell equipment at the northwest facility beginning in the early 2030s.

There is not enough electrical capacity to meet the program’s goals. For example, the Kirk facility now uses 300 kW, and 500 kW is available from Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E). But the agency expects 10,650 kW of load. In the northwest facility, existing power usage is 500 kW, and the estimated load is expected to be 1,500 kW to 15,050 kW, said the RFI.

BG&E generally prioritizes supplying primary service to electric bus fleets but would need to conduct a feasibility study.

Redundancy and resiliency strategies

Photo of Baltimore, Maryland. By Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

The transit administration will consider opportunities to integrate renewable energy into the project, said Sylvester. “As part of the RFI, we ask about redundancy and resiliency strategies which may include components such as solar,” she said.

Solar would be included if it met the project’s goals, including consistent and reliable service running the full bus fleet while constructing new facilities, using technology that would be comparable with zero-emission technology advances. In addition, cost-effectiveness is a goal. The transit administration is also interested in fleet upgrades that have a predictable cost over the length of a potential long-term contract, Sylvester said.

When asked if a microgrid could serve the entire new load, Sylvester said, “MDOT MTA is evaluating resilience and microgrid solutions and requesting that industry respondents describe potential solutions.”

The project is part of the transit administration’s larger effort to achieve a 50% transition to zero-emission buses by 2030, and a 95% transition by 2045, said Sylvester.

The transit administration wants respondents to provide best practices related to planning, implementation and operations, and maintenance of the facilities. The agency is interested in potential risks and mitigation and management possibilities, project finance and delivery method suggestions, as well as project procurement and schedule estimates, said Sylvester.

Part of larger climate plan

The RFI is a response to the Maryland Department of Energy’s proposed Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, which aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% from 2006 levels by 2030.

The goals of the RFI are to understand the market for zero-emission service providers and their qualifications.

“Responses to this RFI will be utilized strictly for the purposes of information gathering so that MDOT MTA can determine the best options available to develop and implement the program and the project in line with industry best practices,” the RFI said.

Any official procurement will begin with a request for proposals (RFP), and information from the RFI may or may not be used to develop an RFP.

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About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

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