Five Local Governments Leading the Way with Microgrid Innovation

Sept. 28, 2021
Big ticket microgrid legislation in Washington, D.C., tends to grab headlines, but it is local governments in the United States that produce some of the most intriguing microgrid policy innnovations.

Big ticket microgrid legislation in Washington, D.C., tends to grab headlines, but it is local governments in the United States that produce some of the most intriguing microgrid policy.

Given that most electric power regulation happens at the local and state levels, these local programs serve as labs of experimentation in the real world of energy — and offer promise for replicability elsewhere.

Here are five local microgrid programs that we’re watching at Microgrid Knowledge.

A microgrid utility

As utilities nationwide struggle to determine their relationship to microgrids — build them or fight them — Cuyahoga County, Ohio, proposed a third option. Why not a microgrid utility? Armond Budish, county executive, who conceived the idea, sees the new utility division as a way to execute the county’s plan to spur economic development by improving the quality of power it offers. “By providing power that has an uptime of 99.999%, we can guarantee that, even if the main power grid goes down, those on the microgrid won’t lose power for more than five minutes in a year.”

Cuyahoga County, Ohio Sets up Microgrid Utility Division, Issues RFQ

A microgrid agency

A county-led agency would work to bolster microgrids in a large swath of California under a plan by the County of Los Angeles. Recently proposed by the county to the state public utilities commission, the agency would serve as a centralized resource to help local governments and public agencies implement microgrids. It would operate in a territory that encompasses about half of California’s population.

US’ Largest County — Los Angeles — Proposes Agency to Support Microgrids in a Large Swath of California 

Microgrids plus transportation

Montgomery County, Maryland, keeps leading the way in showing what the future holds for municipal microgrid development. It was early to dive into energy-as-a-service contracting and construction of advanced microgrids to keep critical facilities up and running during disasters. Now it’s moving into the new vanguard, microgrids for transportation, which is viewed within the industry as a growth market with the rise of electric vehicles.

Montgomery County’s Microgrid Electric Bus Depot Under Construction

On the opposite coast, the Santa Clara, California, Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is also bringing together the microgrid and electric vehicle worlds with plans to build a microgrid with charging infrastructure to upgrade and fuel its fleet of battery-powered electric buses.

This Northern California project is part of the VTA’s effort to transform its fleet to 100% zero emissions by 2036 — before a state requirement takes effect for all public transit agencies to transition to 100% zero emissions by 2040. The VTA is an independent agency that serves Santa Clara County. It currently has a fleet of 441 buses, but only 10 are electric.

California Transportation Authority Proposes Bus Charging Microgrid 

Finding local microgrid sites

Last is an example of not so much one local government pursuing microgrids, but of a state program that will help them do so. Kentucky now holds greater promise for microgrid development because of the Kentucky Regional Microgrids for Resilience Study, designed to help utilities, local and state governments, and industry stakeholders move from planning microgrids and nanogrids to building them.

The study identifies 558 ideal sites for nanogrids and a dozen potential sites for regional community microgrids. It was produced to spur microgrid development at critical facilities in response to the growing threat of power outages. The study pinpointed sites for nanogrids and microgrids at 110 gas stations, 90 fire stations, 70 grocery stores, 56 communication towers and 50 wastewater treatment plants, as well as others.

Communities can use the study to help access federal funding and pave the way for public-private partnerships to deploy microgrids.

Would you like to learn more about ideas and innovation in microgrid policy? Watch this discussion from Microgrid 2021, now available for free viewing in the new Microgrid Knowledge Video Library. Speakers include Andrea Camp, Civil Society Institute; Brian Levite, S&C Electric; Ben Parvey, Blue Sky; Mona Sheth, Schneider Electric; and Matt Roberts, SimpliPhi, as moderator.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is the editor and founder of EnergyChangemakers.com. She is co-founder and former editor of Microgrid Knowledge.

Exploring the Potential of Community Microgrids Through Three Innovative Case Studies

April 8, 2024
Community microgrids represent a burgeoning solution to meet the energy needs of localized areas and regions. These microgrids are clusters of interconnected energy resources,...

Download the full report.

Microgrid Implementation Challenges and Key Technologies

Schneider Electric identifies the main challenges faced during a microgrid project implementation and provides practical information for addressing them.