23 Intriguing Microgrid Projects to Watch in 2023

Jan. 4, 2023
Here is Microgrid Knowledge’s list of 23 microgrid projects to watch in 2023. It wasn't easy to narrow it down this year!

Here is Microgrid Knowledge’s list of 23 microgrid projects to watch in 2023 — in no particular rank. We narrowed the list to 50 finalists and then painfully cut it to 23.

For the first time, we divided the list thematically to give you a sense of the trends we’re seeing.

Last year’s list of 22 projects was one of the most read articles on Microgrid Knowledge.

Rethinking the utility model

1. Sunnova swings back at critics of microutilities plan

This is more than a microgrid project. You might say Sunnova is offering up a new microgrid ecosystem – one with fewer obstructions to microgrid development. It’s not always easy to develop community microgrids because they clash with the conventional utility model. So Sunnova has proposed a new approach — microutilities that would operate microgrids in newly built California neighborhoods of fewer than 2,000 customers. The plan requires state regulatory approval. Whether or not that happens, Sunnova has put forward an innovative model that could spur new ways of thinking about the utility/microgrid relationship.

2. Cuyahoga County takes next step to create a microgrid-friendly utility

Like Sunnova, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, sees outdated utility rules getting in the way of microgrid development, so it is bypassing its local utility and creating its own microgrid-friendly utility. The county utility will oversee multiple microgrids built to encourage economic activity and improve energy resilience. Cuyahoga County made last year’s list of microgrid projects to watch too. At the time, we said it would take some time for this project to be realized because of its complexity. County officials, however, are moving forward diligently with a plan to make the county a national microgrid industry hub.

3. Should you even bother connecting to the grid?

After years of developing energy projects and dealing with the frustrations of interconnecting to the grid, Ben Parvey said enough is enough. It’s time to help people get off the grid. Thus, Parvey’s new business, OhmGrid, was born. The company is devoted to helping homeowners become energy independent by installing what he describes as a modern electric system – a microgrid with solar, storage, a backup generator and control technology. 

4. Entergy considering 10 microgrids as an alternative to transmission

Entergy is among the utilities thinking outside the box when it comes to conventional transmission upgrades. The company is considering microgrids as an alternative to part of $9.6 billion in grid resilience upgrades. One project under consideration is a 17.5-MW microgrid connected to a utility substation that would serve 30 industrial companies, about 70 government entities, about 300 commercial businesses and about 2,200 residential customers. 

 Microgrids for food

 5. An English muffin with a side of sustainability: National bakery goes microgrid

Power outages are costly to food producers and distributors. Loss of refrigeration can mean loss of product. Plus, safety rules often require the shut down and sanitizing of facilities even if the power outage is short. So it’s not surprising that the food industry is turning to microgrids for more reliable electric supply. But for Bimbo Bakeries, the maker of such products as Thomas’ English muffins, Arnold bread, and Sara Lee and Entenmann’s pastries, there was another reason to install microgrids — sustainability goals. The company announced plans in 2022 to install microgrids at six manufacturing facilities over the next year with the help of GreenStruxure, a subsidiary of Schneider Electric.

6. Major North American food producer to exit the California grid

Most North American microgrids are grid connected, allowing them to take services from the grid or sell services to the grid as needed. But like OhmGrid (see #3), Taylor Farms is going entirely off grid with its microgrid. A major California fresh food producer, Taylor Farms is building a microgrid in partnership with Bloom Energy, Ameresco and Concept Clean Energy.

7. New off-grid microgrid to power Central Valley cold storage facility for almond industry

Amond World, a refrigerated cold storage developer in California’s Central Valley, is another food facility that is taking its energy operation off grid. The company has partnered with Origo Investments to build a facility in the Madera Airport Industrial Park that will include an off-grid microgrid designed and built by Scale Microgrid Solutions.

 Big tech goes big on microgrids

8. Enchanted Rock to build California’s largest RNG microgrid for Microsoft

There are two strong reasons for this project to be on the list. First, it’s a large microgrid — 100 MW. Second, the project will use renewable natural gas (RNG), a resource that’s beginning to make its way into microgrids because it offers the reliability of fossil fuels without the carbon dioxide emissions. Located in San Jose, a city whose mayor (see next entry) has become an outspoken advocate of microgrids and grid independence, the microgrid will be part of a Microsoft data center being constructed.

9. San Jose, California mayor again pushes for energy independence with support of Google microgrid

Google plans to build the microgrid as part of an 81-acre mixed-use development on the west side of downtown San Jose. And it’s getting support from a pro-microgrid city government.

 Military microgrids march on

10. MCB Camp Lejeune chooses Duke Energy to build $22 million military microgrid

The military was an early adopter of microgrids and has aggressive goals to install more. The Army plans to build microgrids at all of its bases, and, in October, announced how it will proceed. Similarly, the US Navy and Marine Corps intend to build cybersecure microgrids at critical military facilities as part of a climate strategy.

A $22 million microgrid at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune, the largest Marine Corps installation in the world, is one example. Duke Energy will install the microgrid to support the critical education and training facilities at Camp Johnson, home to the Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools at MCB Camp Lejeune.

11.  New Jersey military base to install microgrid as part of $140 million energy project

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL), an Air Force, Army and Navy base in New Jersey, is doubling down on its resilience efforts by incorporating a microgrid as part of a multifaceted, multiyear energy upgrade. The Defense Logistics Agency and JBMDL awarded Ameresco a $92 million project to update mission-critical infrastructure at the joint base. This is the second phase of a project initiated in 2021; in total, JBMDL is investing $140 million in the resilience and energy efficiency project.

12. US Navy Subbase Project Achieves Commercial Operation

We’ve been following the development of a sophisticated microgrid project for some time at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut. It’s worth highlighting the project this year because it reached an important milestone. The project achieved commercial operation of a 6-MW fuel cell (7.4 MW when it reaches full capacity) by FuelCell Energy.

As part of the installation, FuelCell Energy incorporated technology to make the project microgrid ready. As explained by Mark Feasel, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at FuelCell Energy, the installation included equipment (protective relays, metering, load levelers) that will facilitate integration into the microgrid. Until the full microgrid is developed, the base has a manual sequence of operation that will allow it to use the power from the fuel cell if a power outage occurs on the grid. 

Nesting and clustering microgrids

13. California’s first nested community microgrid draws homebuyers

Some energy futurists see the grid eventually becoming a grid of microgrids. For now, the concept of connecting microgrids is still in its infancy. The most notable is a project underway by Commonwealth Edison in the Bronzeville area of Chicago. 

The project featured here, a community being developed by KB Home, is also worth watching. It is designed so that each home has its own nanogrid that is connected to a central microgrid. The central microgrid connects two neighborhoods for energy sharing.

 14. Emera and Sandia test DC power conversion to achieve grid of grids

Sandia National Laboratories and Emera Technologies are taking the next step to enable bidirectional flow between multiple interconnected microgrids — a grid of grids — under a project funded by the US Department of Energy’s Technology Commercialization Fund.

The effort stems from their partnership on a DC/AC hybrid microgrid demonstration project at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, which is designed to illustrate how direct current (DC) microgrids can be integrated into the current alternating current (AC) electrical system to provide resilient power to homes and military installations.

 Clean fuels plus reliability

15. Australia nickel mine plans to host world’s largest renewable microgrid

The microgrid industry is on a quest to find clean fuels that offer reliability — or ways to navigate renewable energy’s intermittency. The massive $1.7 billion West Musgrave nickel and copper project — given the green light by Australian mining company Oz Minerals — will be a groundbreaking project for the sheer scale and influence of the renewable energy resources it proposes to harness.

 16. Will tidal energy be the new clean power in coastal and island microgrids?

BMT, a global marine design firm, launched a $900,000 demonstration that uses tidal energy produced by Sustainable Marine’s floating platform — six turbines, each rated at 70 kW. The platform pivots on a turret and works in-stream with the natural flow of the tides and can be lifted out of the water when it encounters dangerous objects. BMT sees tidal power as a way to wean Canadian island communities from diesel.

 17. Schneider and partners to pilot unusual EV microgrid in Oakland, California

As electric vehicles (EVs) and microgrids each grow in market share, their paths are intertwining, offering a vision of how together they will change power delivery. An example is a pilot project for a California library announced by Schneider Electric and several partners.

It’s nothing new for microgrids to include EV charging stations. But it is unusual for microgrids to use charged EVs as energy resources — as power sources. Even more unusual is the use of hydrogen-electric buses. The Oakland Public Library project intends to do both.

Just because they are cool and do good

18. University to install unique microgrid and community solar combination in Washington, D.C.

The last six projects on this year’s list don’t fit neatly into the trends above but deserve recognition for being innovative or for doing good — or both.

First up is a new microgrid being built by Scale Microgrid Solutions and Urban Ingenuity that will accomplish the unusual feat of serving its host — a Washington, D.C., university for deaf and hard of hearing students — and powering a community solar program.

19. Solar, storage, microgrids sought for Ukraine as Russia bombards the grid

This is not a single project per se, but an overall effort to provide power to Ukranians. New Use Energy and a group of nonprofits are working with medical professionals and others to keep the lights on as Russia makes Ukraine's grid a war target.

20. Solar minigrids bring water to Ethiopian farms

In a new pilot project, the DREAM initiative has launched nine solar minigrid powered, large-scale irrigation systems in Ethiopia. Agriculture is a major part of Ethiopia’s economy, yet only 5% of the country’s land is irrigated. As a result, crop yields on small farms are below regional averages. This project is a step toward changing that.

21. Resilience-hungry Oregon to deploy two community microgrids, reflecting national trend

In Oregon, which suffers from the effects of climate change, two cities are developing community microgrids. The projects reflect new models emerging to get more community microgrids on the ground nationally.

 22. Port of Long Beach, Schneider Electric start construction on $12.2 million microgrid project

Backed-up ports and supply chain issues were new concepts in the US until COVID-19 arrived. The Port of Long Beach is a major gateway for US-Asian trade, so reliable power at the port is crucial to avoid delivery delays. Schneider Electric has started construction on a $12.2 million microgrid project that will provide reliable, zero-emissions electricity for the port’s Joint Command and Control Center.

23. Dominican Republic villages seek to electrify with solar microgrids, reflecting global trend

Residents in the mountain village of Sabana Real near the Dominican Republic-Haiti border hope that electrification through a solar microgrid will help the town address population flight, economic challenges and worries about being hit by intense storms and hurricanes.

Interested in learning about more microgrid projects? Join us May 16-17 in Anaheim, California for Microgrid Knowledge 2023: Lights On!

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.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

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