A Blueprint for Campus Microgrids: “Internet of Energy” Project

Feb. 21, 2015
The Microgrid Automation Project at Las Positas Community College, funded with a $1.5 million grant from the California Energy Commission, aims to create a blueprint for campus microgrids.

The Microgrid Automation Project at Las Positas Community College, funded with a $1.5 million grant from the California Energy Commission, aims to create a blueprint for campus microgrids.

The project will produce a “blueprint of how to design, finance, and operate microgrids and energy (storage) systems in a scalable and financeable way, thereby lowering the hurdles for other schools and campuses to implement multi-asset, multi-application energy systems,” said Ryan Wartena, CEO and founder of Growing Energy Labs.

And at the core of the project is the Internet of Energy, the ability to network “multiple assets to provide multiple applications and energy services and operated from a local network and cloud architecture,” said Wartena.

Translation: Use state-of-the-art technologies to multi-task and reap big economic and environmental rewards.

That’s just what’s expected to happen in the Microgrid Automation Project. The goal is to integrate renewable energy sources into college operations, curb peak power and achieve greater energy independence.

“We will be integrating the Imergy Power system, a PV system, campus metering, along with thermal assets of chillers and thermal storage to orchestrate these assets to provide demand management, maximize the use of on-campus solar generation, and we are looking to work with PG&E and Olivine to provide demand response and possibly local grid voltage optimization,” said Wartena.

Another mouthful. Translation: The project aims to tell us a lot about the power of energy storage and microgrids to serve a number of important functions that will save money and ensure all the solar produced on campus is utilized.

One of the state-of-the-art systems to be used in this project is the Geli Operating System, said Herve Mazzocco, vice president, solutions, Imergy Power, which is providing the energy storage system for the project.

“It’s like the Windows of  energy management,” he said. “It’s an environment where you optimize how energy is used. You can plug in different applications.  It will monitor load sources, energy storage, and optimize dispatch to reduce energy costs and demand charges.”

Among other things, the project will test the feasibility of taking a mission-critical circuit off-grid, said Mazzocco.

“One of the goals is to demonstrate how you get resiliency by incorporating energy storage into a microgrid,” he said. “We will simulate grid outages and in this case will run some charging stations and lighting on a sub-circuit.”

Imergy will run the sub-circuit with energy storage and solar to demonstrate it can be taken off grid in the event of a power outage.

“That will be big part of energy storage — the versatility,” he said. “We can tackle more than one problem at once. We can manage the power quality and also do long-duration shaping of renewable energy — a wide range of applications with one technology.”

“The district will install Imergy Power Systems’ EPS30 series institutional scale vanadium redox flow batteries with a total capacity of 250 kilowatt/1 megawatt-hour as part of the microgrid, which will be managed by the Geli’s Energy Operating System and Energy Management applications,” said a press release from Imergy. “The energy storage system…will enhance an existing 2.35-MW solar array that generates 55 percent of the energy needed at the campus, 3,200 ton-hours of ice thermal storage, and ten Level II EV charging stations to form a smart microgrid, capturing approximately $75,000 in annual energy savings for the district.”

It’s an impressive multi-tasking project — one that will likely yield money-saving results about these state-of-the-art technologies, their potential uses on college campuses and their ability to take campuses off-grid.

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About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

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