Medford, Massachusett Moves Forward with Microgrid to Reduce Demand Charges, Improve Resiliency

March 29, 2019
Medford, Massachusetts is moving forward with a microgrid designed to improve resilience for its public works department and reduce the city’s electric demand charges.

Medford, Massachusetts is moving forward with a microgrid designed to improve resilience for its public works department and reduce the city’s electric demand charges.

The city this week selected solar installer Solect Energy to engineer, procure, install, and service the grid-connected microgrid.

The Medford microgrid is being built around an existing 235-kW solar array that was installed by Solect through their partnership with PowerOptions, a non-profit energy buying consortium in New England.

In addition to the solar array, the project features an 100-kW/255-kWh NEC energy storage system and an emergency generator.

The microgrid will help keep power flowing if the central grid fails as well as aid city efforts to dampen utility demand charges. Demand charges, which are set based on a customer’s monthly peak load, can significantly increase costs for energy-intensive utility customers, such as municipalities and businesses.

To control demand charges, an energy customer tries to reduce electricity use when demand on the grid peaks. Microgrids assist with this strategy because the customer can use microgrid power, instead of grid power, at the crucial time. Demand charges are set based on that short period of energy use. So if customers cut back on use of the grid at that point, they lower what they pay in demand charges going forward.

Although many microgrids now act to reduce demand charges, one of the most highly touted early success stories occurred at Stafford Hill, a solar plus storage microgrid in Vermont that is owned by Green Mountain Power. The microgrid saved Green Mountain Power $200,000 when it turned on batteries at just the right time to reduce its demand during the hour that New England hit its annual peak in 2016.

In addition to cutting costs through demand charge management, the Medford project will help curb the city’s electricity expenses by participating in demand response programs, where a customer receives a credit or payment for curbing energy use when called upon by the local utility or grid operator.

A northern suburb of Boston, Medford is building the microgrid with an $833,000 grant from the state Department of Energy Resources. The project is one of several funded by the state agency to show how distributed renewable energy can make cities and towns more energy resilient.

Separately, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center also has a grant program to foster microgrids. The MassCEC in February issued 14 grants of $75,000 each to help communities undertake feasibility studies and attract private investment.

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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, 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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