Connecticut Utility Finalizes Innovative Community Microgrid Deal

Nov. 18, 2015
Connecticut utility United Illuminating finalized an agreement today with the town of Woodbridge for a 2.2 MW community microgrid that includes a fuel cell power plant.

Community microgrids are not always easy to finance. But United Illuminating (UI), FuelCell Energy and the town of Woodbridge, Connecticut are showing how some innovative thinking can get it done.

UI, one of two investor-owned utilities in Connecticut, finalized an agreement today with the town on a 2.2 MW fuel cell microgrid.

The deal came about when UI and Woodbridge realized that they could solve each other’s problems.

Woodbridge won $3 million from the state to install the community microgrid. But that wasn’t enough to cover the generation portion of the project. Meanwhile, UI was trying to figure out how it would meet a 10 MW clean energy requirement; it was 2.2 MW short. UI solved its problem and the town’s when it invested in the fuel cell and fulfilled its clean energy obligation. (More details are here.)

The deal also is notable in that it marks FuelCell Energy’s entrance into the microgrid controller market, an arena where several major players, such as Schneider Electric and Siemens, are trying to gain a foothold.

The deal is also notable in that it marks FuelCell Energy’s entrance into the microgrid controller market…

In addition to providing the controller, Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy will design, build and install the fuel cell power plant, and operate and maintain it under a long-term service agreement with UI.

“This project shows the different values clean and affordable fuel cell power plants deliver to multiple stakeholders and is a replicable model for other municipalities evaluating similar structures such as programs being evaluated in the states of New York and California,” said Chip Bottone, CEO of FuelCell Energy. “Under this utility ownership structure, the town of Woodbridge avoids the need to directly invest in resiliency infrastructure and the United Illuminating Company reinforces its leadership position in terms of reliable power delivery in an environmentally friendly manner.”

FuelCell Energy also recently commissioned a 1.4-MW fuel cell in Connecticut for a microgrid at the University of Bridgeport.

The Woodbridge community microgrid, which will be designed to keep power flowing to critical municipal facilities during an outage, will be housed at the local high school. It will serve seven buildings in all. Besides Amity Regional  High School, they include a town hall, library, fire house, police station, public works facility, and senior center/emergency center.

A combined heat and power microgrid, the facility also will supply heat and hot water to the high school.

“Ensuring citizens receive reliable and affordable power delivered in a clean manner is the mandate that the State of Connecticut is pursuing, and this project perfectly illustrates what can be accomplished with collaboration between utility companies, the state, the community, and clean energy solutions providers,” said Robert Klee, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Download the Microgrid Knowledge Community Microgrid Special Report

UI expects the Woodbridge microgrid to be operating by late 2016. The microgrid was one of 11 awarded $23 million through two state solicitations, aimed at making communities more storm resilient. Connecticut is now readying to accept a third round of applications, which will make available an additional $30 million for private and community microgrids. The state will begin taking applications December 10.

For more information about community microgrids, download the free Microgrid Knowledge report, “Community Microgrids: A Guide for Mayors and City Leaders Seeking Clean, Reliable and Locally Controlled Energy,

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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