Quick Microgrid News…NY Prize Revises Schedule…Microgrids to Create Virtual Power Plant in Maryland…Montana Tests Solar Microgrid

July 30, 2015
Quick microgrid news for July 30…NY Prize revises its target dates…A microgrid virtual power plant coming to Maryland…Montana utility to test remote microgrid for rural customers

The latest in microgrid news for July 30…

The $40 million NY Prize has revised its target dates for issuing future community microgrid solicitations and making awards.

Under the new schedule,  the state-sponsored contest expects to issue its Stage 2 request for proposals by the end of November. Applications would be due in April 2016.

Stage 2 will result in about ten awards for up to $1 million. Winners will use the money to create detailed community microgrid designs.

NY Prize anticipates entering into the Stage 2 contracts in July 2016.  Winners would complete audit-grade design engineering plans by December 2017.

Stage 3 will offer up to $7 million that up to five projects can use toward construction of their microgrids. The RFP would be available in Fall 2017, with bids likely due in March 2018. The NY Prize expects to announce the Stage 3 winners in April 2018.

Stage 1 awards were announced in July. Eighty-three communities won prizes of $100,000 each to prepare feasibility studies. That part of the contest should  wrap up by end of February 2016.

Applicants do not have to apply, or win, in one stage to go on to the next. And some projects may complete all stages faster (with their own money) than the schedule outlines, said Micah Kotch, director of NY Prize and strategic adviser for innovation, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

The NY Prize may adjust these timelines; the schedule is an estimate and data will drive any changes, he said.


The virtual power plant approach continues to grow, this time in Maryland where TimberRock Energy Solutions plans to build a fleet of distributed microgrids.

The microgrids will serve a fleet of buildings with demand-side and supply-side resources that will be aggregated for sales into grid markets.

The geographically-separated buildings will include building automation systems, solar PV, li-ion battery storage, natural gas generators and a microgrid energy router. The equipment will power buildings during a grid failure.

TimberRock plans to use cloud computing technology to aggregate the individual building-level microgrids so they can be managed as a single, virtual power plant.

“We believe this will be one of the most ambitious and complex microgrid deployments in the U.S. due to its distributed nature,” said CEO Brent Hollenbeck.

The project will be funded in part by a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration. The remainder of the funds will come from the building owners. Timberock says that the resiliency created by the microgrids may lower insurance costs for the buildings while increasing their profitability through continuity of operations.

The microgrids will use Timberock’s management platform DE-MAP.

“DE-MAP’s Internet of Things (IoT) hardware provides utility-grade connectivity, telemetry and advanced switching to each microgrid – all behind the meter,” said TimberRock CTO David Bateman. “Cyber-secure, cloud computing then allows the microgrids to be virtually aggregated and managed. The franchise rights of the utility are maintained and the utility continues to deliver off-site renewable energy. We believe this strategy represents a realistic and utility-friendly microgrid model that can eventually benefit all rate payers.”

This deployment represents the latest in a series of microgrid projects that TimberRock has installed in the mid-Atlantic. Last year, TimberRock and General Motors were awarded PV America’s Project of Distinction for a microgrid deployment that integrated solar PV, energy storage and a fleet of Chevrolet Volts that provided ancillary services.


NorthWestern Energy has begun work on a small microgrid pilot that will use solar plus storage to improve reliability for customers in rural areas. The Montana utility also will use the project to help gauge the solar potential across its service territory.

The pilot project is located on leased private property along Interstate 90. It includes ground-mounted PV, inverters and a battery bank to generate electricity when conditions permit and  store it for use during outages. The 40-kW solar system and batteries could provide electricity for up to two hours.

About 17 NorthWestern customers in the area will be involved in the project.

This is the first project of this kind in Montana and gives us the opportunity to test solar integration tied directly to the distribution system serving multiple purposes,” said Curt Pohl, NorthWestern’s vice president, distribution. “While the primary purpose of this system is to serve as back-up for the 17 customers on this circuit tap, it will also produce renewable energy and give us the opportunity to test voltage support.”

Planning and development has been under way for a number of months. Completion of the project, which will cost about $600,000, is expected in October 2015.

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Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

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