Vermont’s Green Mountain Power to Build Microgrid, Plans Others

March 2, 2021
GMP believes it is the first utility in the United States to island a distribution circuit using inverter-based sources with no reliance on fossil fuel generation backup.

Green Mountain Power (GMP) is breaking ground this spring on a microgrid in Panton, Vermont, which already has a 4.9-MW solar facility coupled with a 1-MW/4-MWh battery storage system.

GMP, Vermont’s largest utility with about 266,000 customers, also plans to set up other microgrids in “resiliency zones” as part of a broad plan to prepare for climate change. 

With the Panton microgrid, GMP believes it is the first utility in the United States to island a distribution circuit using inverter-based sources with no reliance on fossil fuel generation backup. 

“We are building solutions now that allow our cities and towns to stay connected and powered during outages,” said Mari McClure, GMP’s president and CEO. “With microgrids powered by clean energy and paired with batteries to store and deploy that power when it’s needed, we’re keeping the power on for our customers, while also reducing our carbon impact.”

At first, the Panton microgrid will cover 50 customers, but it could grow to include another 900 customers, according to GMP. 

The Panton microgrid project builds on a solar and energy storage facility that came online in 2019. The utility expects the microgrid to be working by July.

GMP already uses the battery storage in Panton to reduce peak load.

GMP plans microgrid projects to bolster resilience

The microgrid project grew out of a climate resiliency plan the Vermont Public Utilities Commission approved in October 2020. The plan creates a framework for GMP to select projects that will protect the utility’s infrastructure from climate change and help the state move away from fossil fuels. The Vermont Public Utilities Commission said the utility could spend $14 million a year over two years on the plan.

Part of the plan calls for developing microgrids that can be used across GMP’s territory to make sure critical facilities can keep running during severe weather.

GMP intends to work with stakeholders to identify potential resiliency zones.

Currently, the utility is working to create resiliency zones with three other towns that are affected by outages caused by severe weather.

Based on outage data, GMP said it is reaching out to see if other towns want to join the program. 

“We will continue to accelerate the deployment of solutions like this to make Vermont cleaner and more resilient, and improve the lives of our customers,” McClure said.

GMP owns the 2.5-MW Stafford Hill solar microgrid in Rutland, Vermont. The microgrid includes a 4-MW/3.4-MWh battery system. It was set up in 2015 in response to Hurricane Irene, which led to major outages in the state.

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About the Author

Ethan Howland

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