21 Intriguing Microgrid Projects to Watch in 2021

Jan. 5, 2021
The last year brought about a proliferation of microgrid projects, as the technology hit its stride in the marketplace. Here we look at 21 of those projects that we believe should be carefully watched as they unfold in 2021. 

The last year brought about a proliferation of microgrid projects, as the technology hit its stride in the marketplace. Here we look at 21 of those projects that we believe should be carefully watched as they unfold in 2021. 

We chose the projects for their innovation, ability to serve as models, and demonstration of microgrid benefits.

Why 21 microgrid projects? We initially intended to name five, then 10, but there were so many that were notable, we found it hard to cull the list. So we went with 21, which seemed appropriate for the year. We confined the list to projects, either proposed or under development, that Microgrid Knowledge reported on in 2020.

All of the excerpts below are linked to articles where you can find more information about the projects.

You are welcome to add microgrid projects that you are watching. Please do so in the comments section below.

1. Google Plans Microgrid for Mixed-Use Development in San Jose *

The tech giant says it plans to build multiple microgrids for its campuses and workforce. It’s now working on getting approvals in San Jose, California, for a microgrid to serve an 81-acre high-density development. Google is a big energy user that could serve as a leader in hastening microgrid adoption by the already-interested tech industry. 

2. OhmConnect Plans World’s Biggest Virtual Power Plant

Here, again, we see Google’s influence, as Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP), which is backed by Google’s parent Alphabet, teams with OhmConnect to offer a glimpse into the future of microgrids’ distributed energy and homeowner devices pooling into a virtual power plant.

3. Concentric to Build 35-MW Microgrid in California with Innovative Wholesale Power Agreement

We are watching this one because of its size and unusual contract structure, which could serve as a model for other municipalities or campuses looking at microgrids.

4. Stop & Shop, Major Northeast Grocery Store Chain, to Install 40 Microgrids

It’s increasingly clear that grocery stores become critical facilities during disasters, right up there with hospitals, communication towers and water treatment facilities. They cannot lose power, for the sake of their communities — and for their own sake. Spoiled food is an expensive loss. Stop & Shop showed that it understands its vital role in the community by contracting with Bloom Energy for microgrids at its stores.

5. Siemens and Partners Plan All Renewable, 300-MW Microgrid in Ireland

The sheer size of this microgrid makes it notable, as does its greenfield nature, which opens up the opportunity for Siemens to innovate and test microgrid technology in a very large sandbox.

6. Horizon Power Prepares to Build Australia’s First Renewable Hydrogen Microgrid

Hydrogen has become a fuel that captures the imagination of futurists. Now, the innovative Australian utility, Horizon Power, plans to test it as a substitute for diesel fuel for remote towns.

7. Microgrid Project on Maine Island Lands USDA funding

This is a small microgrid that deserves some big love. It’s a grassroots project undertaken by an island community whose residents likely count their blessings every time the lights turn on — they get their electricity from a 7-mile undersea cable that has outlived its useful life. The project also is innovative in that it will use a transactive energy platform provided by Dynamic Grid and Brightmerge.

8. Neighborhood Chooses Off-Grid Microgrids Instead of Paying the Utility

Most microgrids in the US are connected to the grid. This one is unusual in that it is choosing to go off-grid. The remote luxury resort will feature 2,000 to 6,000 square foot homes, each with its own solar off-grid microgrid.

9. Ameresco and Duke to Build Unusual Floating Solar Microgrid at World’s Largest Military Base

When it comes to energy, the military often leads the way in innovation. Ameresco and Duke are installing a floating solar microgrid, a technology that has been rarely employed in the US so far. It is part of a larger $36 million design-build energy project for Fort Bragg, the world’s largest military base with 50,000 active duty personnel.

10. Santa Barbara Schools Plan Six Solar Microgrids 

Santa Barbara, California, gets it. Schools are logical host sites for microgrids. They can help communities achieve sustainability goals, keep the kids learning during outages, serve as community shelters, and act as green electricity sources for EV charging. Santa Barbara is accruing all of the benefits of microgrids while saving money on its energy bills.

11. Maryland Announces Funding for 14 Microgrid Projects

OK, we admit we’re cheating here. This is 14 projects, not one. But the Maryland Energy Administration did such an outstanding job identifying innovative and “greater good” microgrids for funding that we consolidated them into one.

12. Xcel Energy Reaches Settlement Agreement on $23.4M Microgrid Project in Colorado 

OK, we’re cheating again. These are seven microgrid projects proposed by Colorado utility Xcel Energy. Many of them are community-based, and they are likely to serve as models for others in the US seeking ways utilities can offer microgrids. 

13. Emera Technologies to Use the BlockEnergy Platform for 40 Homes

Home microgrids are on the rise, and Emera Technologies appears poised to become a big player in the market with this early-out-of-the-gate model in Tampa, Florida. 

14. Massachusetts City Plans “Microgrid without Borders”

As energy democracy and social justice increasingly drive energy planning, Chelsea, Massachusetts, hopes to become a model for how it’s done by developing a “microgrid without borders.”

15. Canada’s Prince Edward Island Plans $18.5M Microgrid to Ease Electricity Costs

Electric reliability is an established bragging right for microgrids. Less talked about, unfortunately, are their financial benefits. Kudos to Prince Edward Island for pointing out this advantage. We’ll look forward to more details about the project’s financials as they emerge.

16. Microgrid to Help Produce 500,000 Pounds of Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Arugula and Herbs 

Producing food is energy-intensive. Schneider Electric and Scale Microgrid have teamed up on a microgrid that will help a vertical farming facility manage costs through demand response, peak shaving and time of use rates.

17. EDF Renewables to Install “Crown Jewel” of San Diego Port’s Climate Plan: A Microgrid

Rebuilding US infrastructure — and doing so sustainably — is likely to become a federal priority under the Biden administration. The Port of San Diego may become a model for ports with its renewable energy microgrid — what it calls the crown jewel of its climate plan.

18. Enchanted Rock to Install Microgrid for Regional Water Authority in Texas

When it comes to critical services, water is high on the list. Here a pumping station will continue to have a reliable source of backup power, without ongoing maintenance expenses, because Enchanted Rock will own, operate and maintain the new generator.

19. Cost Savings Drives Decision to Install Microgrid at California Wastewater Treatment Plant 

Here, again, we see crucial water-related services bolstered by a microgrid. This Ameresco project also offers the McKinleyville Community Services District $65,000 in cost savings the first year.

20. California Awards $3.5 Million for Microgrid at Frito-Lay Food Processing Plant

Kevin Uy, a staff member at the Californa Energy Commission, nicely summed up the value of this microgrid as a demonstration project: “By implementing a microgrid at a food processor, this project will demonstrate the benefits of renewable energy production and electricity reliability to other industrial customers, as well as the benefits of microgrid technology, more broadly to utilities and other involved parties.”

21. Colorado Utility Plans Technology Campus with Microgrid

Kudos to Colorado Springs Utilities for its forward-looking preparation. The public power utility is building a 160-acre Advanced Technologies Campus, designed to test an array of new technologies. Plans call for it to include a microgrid. 

*Note: Numbering does not indicate order of importance.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is the editor and founder of EnergyChangemakers.com. She is co-founder and former editor of Microgrid Knowledge.

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