Last year one of the most read articles on Microgrid Knowledge was “21 Intriguing Microgrid Projects to Watch in 2021,” so this year we’re offering up a new list for 2022.
The microgrid industry has been busy — there was no shortage of projects to choose from. In fact, our initial list netted twice what we needed. Since it’s 2022 not 2044, we had to do some serious culling.
We chose these projects for their innovation, ability to serve as models and demonstration of microgrid benefits. You are welcome to add microgrid projects you’d choose in the comments section below.
Here’s our list of microgrid projects to watch in 2022 — in no particular order:
Smart cities are increasingly embracing microgrids. With microgrids already in place at its port, zoo and two military bases, San Diego is now pursuing eight microgrids for city facilities. The microgrids will include solar, storage and electric vehicle charging. Candice Yu, Shell New Energies business development advisor, and Lindsey Hawes, San Diego’s municipal energy program manager, talked about the project at our Microgrid California forum in October. You can watch it here.
Montgomery County, Maryland, is another smart jurisdiction. Within commuting distance to the nation’s capital, the county already has microgrids at correctional and public safety facilities. Now it’s building a 5.6 MW microgrid with distributed energy generation, energy storage and over 2 MW of charging capacity at the Brookville Smart Energy Bus Depot. AlphaStruxure, a joint venture between Schneider Electric and the Carlyle Group, designed and will build and deliver the project for the county, using an energy-as-a-service model that doesn’t require the county to make upfront payments. The county wants to reach net-zero emissions by 2035 and the microgrid is part of the plan to get it there.
Big tech, including Google and Meta (Facebook), are embracing microgrids. Here’s an example of a microgrid project Meta is helping to fund in Menlo Park where the company is based. The solar-plus-storage microgrid will serve a Red Cross facility.
Jersey City, New Jersey, tells us it is ready to break ground as soon as weather permits on this municipal services microgrid. The city has committed $15 million to an energy savings improvement program that includes the microgrid. Being undertaken by Schneider Electric, the solar-plus-storage microgrid project is unusual in that it will incorporate electric garbage trucks.
Greater Los Angeles, California, is emerging as an innovation hub for microgrids, evidenced most recently by a plan to install what is being described as one of the US’ largest electric vehicle (EV) charging stations powered by a solar and storage microgrid. The Washington Bus Yard project comes as the Los Angeles Department of Transportation works to transition to an all-electric fleet by 2028. With a $6 million grant from the California Energy Commission, the solar and storage microgrid will serve a 7.5-MW EV charging system, making it what vendor Proterra Energy describes as one of the largest projects of its kind in the US.
Home microgrids are the new frontier and Emera Technologies is a pioneer with its BlockEnergy product. The microgrid will cover up to 37 homes in the Medley at Southshore Bay housing development in Hillsborough County, which is in Tampa. Tampa Electric sees the project as a way to test the ability of the neighborhood microgrid to ride through upstream AC distribution system disturbances, integrate high levels of renewable energy and reduce the effects of peak load on the utility’s transmission and distribution system.
In the United Kingdom, housing developer Quinn Estates is working on another approach to home microgrids with SNRG SmartGrids, a microgrid-as-a-service company that is backed by Centrica, one of the UK’s largest energy companies. SNRG will design, finance, build and operate the privately owned microgrid, providing energy-as-a-service for the 162 houses being built at the project. This project is reflective of the fact that we really have to decarbonize if we are going to meet our climate change goals. The Future Homes Standard will require new homes to be zero carbon-ready and all electric with no gas network connection. The government has set a target of implementing that by 2025, Dan Nicholls, managing director of SNRG SmartGrids, told Microgrid Knowledge.
Will the tiny town of Heyfield (population 2,000) show the way in creating a community microgrid? It is working on creating a replicable model with backing from the Australian government. You can listen to Scott Dwyer, research principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, talk about MyTown on this webinar.
Another community microgrid to watch is the Pali Microgrid in Pacific Palisades, California. The Pali Microgrid is expected to be one of the first community microgrids in the US installed in an established residential community. In Phase I, project developers will attempt to lower the cost of solar energy and battery storage installations through the power of bulk purchasing, reduce contractor acquisition costs and transfer savings to homeowners and business owners of the Pacific Palisades.
The University of California, Berkeley, has undertaken the ambitious plan to become fossil fuel free by 2035 and plans to build a microgrid to help it get there. The university also has been hit by California’s infamous public safety power shutoffs, so it is seeking a clean energy microgrid to ensure reliability. The university intends to become entirely electric. The complex project will take several years to develop. Sally McGarrahan, associate vice chancellor – Facilities Capital Renewal Program, University of California, Berkeley, offered a deep dive into the project at Microgrid California, which you can watch here.
Ameresco, a microgrid project developer, continues to grow its list of military microgrids, with the most recent being a $21.6 million project at Fort Hunter Liggett in Jolon, California. And Fort Hunter Liggett is an interesting place to do so. Over the last decade, the base has eliminated the need for fuel oil, reduced energy consumption intensity by 63%, significantly reduced propane use, and incorporated ground source heat pumps. This was accomplished by replacing inefficient boilers, furnaces and lighting with modern high-efficiency equipment. Its sustainability efforts have won Fort Hunter Liggett several Army awards. The microgrid is the culmination of more than a decade of planning, according to Col. Charles Bell, garrison commander.
Bluehouse Greenhouse, which specializes in sustainable indoor agriculture, is developing a contrarian microgrid. While most US microgrids are connected to the grid, developer Endurant is building an off-grid microgrid for the company’s 2.8 million square foot, highly automated glass greenhouse, which will produce 50 million pounds of fresh produce annually. Why go off grid? Bluehouse Greenhouse determined that it was too expensive and too difficult to interconnect. “We had to think about what is the most resilient solution, where are we going to get the most benefit for our money and investment, and where are we going to have the most secure energy system,” said Ari Kashani, CEO and founder of Bluehouse Greenhouse, at Microgrid California. (View Kashani speaking here.) Many microgrid developers say that interconnection approvals significantly delay their projects. Will others follow the Bluehouse Greenhouse model?
Agriculture is a thriving market for microgrids, and, in particular, energy-intensive cannabis facilities. A good example is a 100% offset solar microgrid project being developed by Scale Microgrid Solutions for a 47-acre cannabis growing facility in Salinas, California. Scale Microgrid, which has been developing microgrids for cannabis cultivation since 2017, expects this project to be the largest of its kind in the industry, consisting of 4.9 MW of solar panels and 6 MWh of battery storage. Covering 10 acres of the Harborside growing facility, the microgrid is estimated to produce 8,600,000 kWh of electricity every year.
Hospitals are often cited as an example of why a 100% renewable grid isn’t feasible. A power outage can mean life or death in that setting. Kaiser Permanente plans to demonstrate a range of energy innovations at a hospital microgrid in Ontario, California, that will include how to incorporate more renewable energy and move away from diesel generators. The project, which includes 2.2 MW of solar, a 1-MW fuel cell from Bloom Energy and a 9-MWh battery, is funded in part by an $8 million grant from the California Energy Commission. The controls will be supplied by Charge Bliss.
We all know microgrids can make money by selling services to the grid, but here’s a project that will literally make money. The Royal Mint at Llantrisant in Wales has signed a tender agreement with renewable energy company Infinite to install an integrated energy and microgrid project — what Infinite calls a local energy center.
This is a project we’ve been watching for a while, and we suspect it will take a few more years to roll out given its ambitiousness and scale. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, has set up a public utility division to manage microgrids and has issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) seeking a design consultant for its plan to build multiple microgrids. The new utility division is a first for the state of Ohio, according to the county, which is pursuing microgrids to attract businesses that seek highly resilient electricity and to foster local development of clean, local energy.
In the Central African country of Cameroon, electricity is scarce outside of major cities. But that may soon change because of a public-private partnership that has set a goal of installing 750 minigrids. The effort is about more than lighting up the 11,000 villages that lack power; the partners hope to foster long-term social, environmental and economic benefits. Watch Jesse Gerstin, director of sustainable business development at SimpliPhi Power discuss the project here.
Islands off the Americas are notorious hurricane magnets and suffer debilitating outages as a result. Fortunately, more and more microgrids are being installed on islands, including some interesting models such as the one at the Chub Cay Resort Marina in The Bahamas. Here we note a recent project in the news, a 4-MW solar and storage microgrid in Paraquita Bay, Torto in the British Virgin Islands, a project of the local utility.
Six new microgrids have been developed simultaneously in Nigeria as part of a rural electrification program backed by the World Bank. The projects show the considerable possibilities available from the scaling up of microgrid rollout programs. Located in Nasarawa State, the solar hybrid microgrid projects will provide clean, reliable and affordable electricity to about 5,000 households and 500 businesses. Six communities in the Doma and Lafia local government areas will gain access to electricity for the first time. Communities benefiting are Rukubi, Idadu and Igbabo in Doma and Kiguna, Akura and Gidan Buba in Lafia. Developed by Husk Power Systems, the projects will also support local agricultural activities. Watch Manoj Sinha, founder and CEO of Husk Power Systems, discuss global drivers for microgrids in a video interview with Microgrid Knowledge.
Think all of the microgrid action is in California and the East Coast? Not true. For example, here is a community microgrid project being built by Alliant Energy, a utility based in Madison, Wisconsin. Alliant expects to complete the project in the fall of 2022. The microgrid will serve the village of Boaz in Richland County, a small community that experienced 10 outages between 2017 and 2019. After weighing the option of rebuilding roughly 15 miles of distribution lines, the utility chose the microgrid as a less expensive option to improve the reliability of power.
But, yes, California is definitely a center of microgrid activity, not surprising given the number of wildfire-related power outages and the state’s aim to green its power supply. Utilities, with regulatory backing, are fostering several community microgrid projects. We note here Pacific Gas & Electric’s support of the Oakland EcoBlock, a project the utility is working on with the University of California, Berkeley, which retrofits a neighborhood into a net-zero energy, block-level microgrid. EcoBlock brings to the neighborhood energy efficiency, a solar-powered microgrid, shared electric vehicles and a new approach for coordinating energy resources among neighbors.
New Jersey is pursuing community microgrids through what it calls the Town Center Distributed Energy Resources Microgrid Program. This is a multiyear project that is well worth watching because the approach could become a model for other state governments. The Atlantic City microgrid is among those underway.
Interested in learning more about microgrids? Join us at Microgrid 2022: Microgrids as Climate Heroes.