Microgrid projects to the moon and back

May 11, 2022
Microgrid projects are being planned pretty much everywhere now. Here we look at new projects in California, Massachusetts and — believe or not — even on the moon.

Developers say microgrid projects are being planned pretty much everywhere now. I suspect they mean everywhere on Earth. It turns out they are thinking small.

Why not a microgrid on the moon? A US federal lab thinks it’s plausible — and may even be necessary — if we are to venture further to Mars.

The Sandia National Laboratories is partnering with NASA on a microgrid for the Artemis lunar base, which will be a technology proving ground for the eventual human exploration of Mars, says an article by Mollie Rappe in Sandia LabNews.

The base camp would accommodate four astronauts and produce rocket fuel, water, oxygen and other materials at a mining and processing center on the moon.

Sandia engineers are working on a controller to serve the mining and processing center’s microgrid. Meanwhile, NASA is designing a controller for a microgrid where the astronauts would live.

Most interesting, the engineers are working on connecting the two microgrids, an endeavor that could inform the futuristic vision of a grid of microgrids on Earth. Several projects are underway back on our planet to test such microgrid clusters, most notably Chicago’s Bronzeville microgrid.

Researchers are using hardware-in-the-loop technology to model the lunar microgrid. They also are looking to projects such as the Emera DC microgrid at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico “to see how a power-electronic-heavy system can operate and port power as needed in low-energy contingency scenarios,” says the article.

Back on Earth (or at least California)

Back on Earth, several innovative microgrids made the news this week. They might not get us to Mars, but they offer a way to keep power flowing for safe drinking water, food delivery and the growing fleet of electric vehicles (EVs).

Scale Microgrid Solutions announced two projects, both in California.

The New Jersey-based microgrid developer is partnering with the Santa Margarita Water District for a microgrid to keep water services powered for 200,000 Orange County customers in nine communities.

Scale Microgrid is working with the district to install, finance and operate 12 MWh of energy storage at the water and wastewater treatment facility. The project delivers eight hours of backup power and cost savings. It also will eliminate the need for diesel fuel in an area prone to power shutoffs because of wildfire threats.

The energy storage system will pair with the existing 1 MW of solar at the Chiquita Water Reclamation Plant. The batteries will store solar energy generated during the day and discharge it in the evening when energy prices are high and grid power is being generated mostly with natural gas.

The batteries, owned and operated by Scale, will be programmed to prioritize savings and reduce carbon during normal operations. The system will enroll in utility demand response programs.

In Long Beach, California, Scale will bring a microgrid to Quality Custom Distribution (QCD), a division of Golden State Foods, in partnership with InCharge Energy.

The microgrid will provide power to the food distribution company’s southern California electric transportation fleet, based in La Puente.

Developed by Scale, the microgrid for QCD’s charging infrastructure will include:

  • 1,200 kW of rooftop solar.
  • 250 kW of carport solar.
  • 3 MWh of battery storage.
  • 1,500 kW of backup generation.

The system uses a modular design with preengineered components, making it quicker and easier to construct and minimizing interruption to fleet operations. The modular design also cuts cost and effort if the microgrid is scaled up in the future as more EVs are added to the fleet.

Scale said that the microgrid will allow QCD to electrify its fleet more quickly and cost-efficiently than a utility upgrade, which can take more than two years in Southern California.

InCharge Energy will engineer, commission and install the charging infrastructure to power the electric fleet.

Work has begun, and the project is expected to be finished in 2023.

Massachusetts

On the East Coast, Enel X and Global Partners have completed a microgrid for a fuel station and convenience store in Ayers, Massachusetts.

One of the Northeast’s largest owners of independent gas stations and convenience stores, Global Partners installed the microgrid at its Alltown Fresh Ayer facility. The microgrid integrates a solar canopy, battery storage and a portable generator. The project also includes a 50 kW JuicePump, which can charge vehicle batteries up to 80% of their battery capacity in 30 to 60 minutes.

Enel X designed, built, operated and financed the project.

“The Alltown Fresh microgrid is attractive to EV drivers who want to power their vehicles with renewable energy, and it’s valuable to businesses to support the local grid by decreasing overall demand and reducing emissions while reducing costs,” said Surya Panditi, head of Enel X North America.

The microgrid provides power to Alltown Fresh Ayer by integrating solar panels on the canopy, a battery storage unit and a portable generator connection, all designed, built, operated and financed by Enel X. Image courtesy of Enel X

The microgrid is the first project to be completed under InnovateMass’ Resilient Service Stations Challenge, which seeks to ensure continuous power for service stations near evacuation routes across the state.

Enel X also partnered with National Grid under the EV Make Ready Program to upgrade the grid to support the EV charging, provide power for the service station, and interconnect the distributed energy resources co-located behind the same meter.

“As we explore the future of energy stations and convenience, we’re focused on three things: customer experience, resilience and embracing EV charging and other renewable fuels,” said Mark Cosenza, senior vice president of Global Partners. “Every day, we fuel the human journey, whether it is with a fresh cup of coffee, scratch made salad, fuel or a quick charge, and our commitment to that is only heightened during emergencies. We’re adding critical resiliency to our operations through this microgrid, supporting our customers already enjoying a healthier, more sustainable convenience station experience with EV charging powered by renewables. It’s truly a win-win-win.”
 
 Learn more about microgrid projects — everywhere — at Microgrid 2022: Microgrids as Climate Heroes, June 1-2 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

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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