Nation's capital sees first microgrid-powered electric buses with launch of Alphastruxure project

Nov. 2, 2022
The first microgrid-powered electric buses are now on the road in the Washington, D.C. area.

A much-awaited microgrid — one that highlights the growing synergy between microgrids and electrification — went live this week in Montgomery County, Maryland. The project powers electric buses with a microgrid for the first time in the Washington, D.C., area.

The 6.5-MW microgrid was built by AlphaStruxure, a joint venture of Schneider Electric and the Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm, under a long-term energy-as-a-service (EaaS) agreement the company has with the county. Located at the Brookville Smart Energy Bus Depot, it will power the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Ride On transit electric buses.

Described as the transportation infrastructure of tomorrow by AlphaStruxure CEO Juan Macias, phase one of the microgrid project includes 1.6 MW of solar photovoltaic canopies, renewable natural gas-ready on-site generation, 3 MW of battery energy storage and more than 4.14 MW of charging capacity.

The microgrid is managed by AlphaStruxure’s digital platform that provides 24/7 real-time performance and operations data to stakeholders. The integrated bus charging infrastructure was provided by The Mobility House.

Phase two of the project will further improve resilience, reliability and system uptime by adding more charging capacity and two more renewable gas-ready gensets.

Emissions free by 2035

In the long term, the microgrid will be powered entirely by renewable energy. “We’re the third [county] nationally to have solar-powered charging stations for our buses with one of the most sophisticated integrated microgrids," said Marc Elrich, county executive.

The county will charge 70 electric buses at the depot, reducing lifetime emissions by 62%, or the equivalent of more than 160,000 tons of greenhouse gases over the next 25 years.

Representatives from Montgomery County and AlphaStruxure discussed the Brookville Smart Energy Bus Depot at Microgrid 2022. Watch the video here.

Elrich added, “We’re well on our way to our goal of an emissions-free fleet by 2035 and improving the county's resilience.”

An electrification model for municipalities

AlphaStruxure’s Macias said the project will be a benchmark and national model for municipalities and private fleet owners, “accelerating the electrification of medium and heavy-duty vehicle fleets.”

He noted that the EaaS approach required no upfront costs or financial risks for the county.

“The Brookville Smart Energy Bus Depot is a momentous achievement not only for resilient public transportation but also in demonstrating the power of integrated technologies to provide sustainable community resources," said Gregor Hintler, US managing director for The Mobility House.

A multipurpose microgrid

Michael Yambrach, interim chief at the Office of Energy and Sustainability, Department of General Services for Montgomery County, said the county “has been committed to sustainability leadership and improving resilience after experiencing extreme weather events and recent extended power outages.”

That’s why in addition to powering the county’s buses during multiday grid outages, the Montgomery County microgrid will provide greater energy resilience for local residents and businesses through its participation in Potomac Electric Power’s demand response program.

Yambrach added that the “Brookville Smart Energy Depot aligns with the county’s priorities to reduce emissions from public transportation while strengthening the community and infrastructure assets.”

This public-private partnership has garnered significant national attention over the last year. Representatives from the Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation attended this week’s ribbon cutting ceremony, as did US Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

Do you have a story to tell about microgrids? Microgrid Knowledge is seeking speaker applications through Dec. 21, 2022 for Microgrid 2023: Lights On, which will be held May 16-17, 2023 in Anaheim, California.

About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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