University to install unique microgrid and community solar combination in Washington, D.C.

April 15, 2022
A new microgrid being built by Scale Microgrid Solutions and Urban Ingenuity will accomplish the unusual feat of serving its host — a Washington, D.C., university for deaf and hard of hearing students — and powering a community solar program.

A new microgrid being built by Scale Microgrid Solutions and Urban Ingenuity will accomplish the unusual feat of serving its host — a Washington, D.C., university for deaf and hard of hearing students — and powering a community solar program.

The microgrid will be capable of providing Gallaudet University, which has about 1,400 students, with almost all of its electricity during a grid outage. In addition, it will serve the District of Columbia community solar program, available to Washington, D.C., residents, nonprofit organizations and small businesses.

Microgrids and community solar are rarely paired and their primary purposes are different. While microgrids are chiefly installed to provide reliable power during grid outages, community solar programs are designed to give those who cannot easily install solar on-site — renters, for example, or those that lack adequate roof space — an opportunity to participate in a renewable energy project. A community solar program allows them to subscribe to a solar array built off-site and receive a credit on their electricity bill for doing so. 

Learn more from Scale Microgrid about the Gallaudet University project during a special session at Microgrid 2022, “Graduating Beyond the Basics: The latest microgrid innovations for campuses.”

Ryan Goodman, CEO of Scale Microgrid Solutions, described the Gallaudet University microgrid as a “breakthrough system that not only will deliver valuable resiliency benefits for the university but also provide the surrounding community with access to cleaner energy.”

Virtual front of the meter

Capable of serving 1,500 nearby households or small businesses, the community solar program came about through a collaboration with the district’s local utility, Potomac Electric Power (PEPCO), a subsidiary of Exelon. It will work by tracking the electricity produced from distributed solar panels connected to Gallaudet’s campus and then allocating the output as community solar credits. Scale Microgrid describes the approach as “virtual front of the meter,” meaning Scale can develop the project without the need for extensive cabling costs that would be required to aggregate many distributed solar systems and connect them directly to PEPCO’s grid. Instead, they simply connect to the nearest power panel and the utility tracks the output through sensors and software.

Expected to go online in fall 2023, the microgrid will also deliver several other benefits, according to Scale Microgrid. These include reliable, clean and lower cost energy for the university and congestion relief on the city’s electricity grid. 

Scale Microgrid Solutions will design, build and operate the project with a consortium that includes Urban Ingenuity, Schneider Electric, Tesla, Mitsubishi, CHA Consulting and New Columbia Solar.

The microgrid consists of:

  • 2.5 MW of solar panels spread across campus rooftops and parking garages.
  • A 1.2 MW/2.5 MWh Tesla Megapack energy storage
  • A 4.5 MW combined cooling, heat and power system.
  • Advanced microgrid controls.

“As a flagship educational institution for Washington, D.C., and as a cornerstone of the global deaf and hard of hearing community, Gallaudet deserves tremendous credit for providing the vision and leadership required to build climate solutions, while ensuring a more just and resilient local community. We are honored to be part of this world-class team,” said Bracken Hendricks, CEO of Urban Ingenuity, which finances and develops clean energy projects that promote social equity and housing affordability.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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