Campus microgrid awarded $750,000 MEA grant

Oct. 12, 2022
Frostburg State University and Optimize Renewables have been awarded a $750,000 Maryland Energy Administration grant to fund the construction of a resilient campus microgrid.  

Frostburg State University (FSU) and its partner Optimize Renewables have been awarded the first grant from Maryland’s new Resilient Maryland Capital Development program. The $750,000 grant will fund the construction and installation of the university’s resilient campus microgrid.

FSU’s microgrid plan calls for an integrated system that includes an advanced microgrid controller that will manage rooftop and ground-mounted solar arrays, solar parking lot canopies, integrated electric vehicle charging stations and renewable natural gas powered fuel cells.

FSU microgrid to support campus and the community

Al Delia, FSU vice president for regional development and engagement, said, “This microgrid will help safeguard our students, faculty and staff; protect critical operations from energy disruptions; and enable the university to further its sustainability goals.”

The campus microgrid will also support the local community in times of crisis by enabling the Harold J. Cordts Physical Education Center to serve as an emergency shelter for both those on campus and those in the surrounding area.

Len Jornlin, CEO of Optimize Renewables, said the public-private university business model developed with FSU “designs and delivers ‘the right mix’ of energy, as well as education, training and lasting impacts in the heart of coal country.”

Maryland first issued microgrid grants in 2020

This is the second grant FSU has received from the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) for its microgrid project. Maryland first began offering microgrid grants to communities, campuses and critical facilities in 2020.

That year, FSU was awarded a MEA Resilient Maryland Planning Grant that allowed it to commission a feasibility study. Partner Optimize Renewables provided technical analysis, preconstruction planning and financial modeling.

In 2021, the state awarded $566,000 to eight organizations to fund feasibility studies, planning and design for microgrid projects. It is expected that the MEA will award around $800,000 in FY2022, depending on the number and the quality of the applications received.

Delia, Jornlin and Brandon Bowser of the Maryland Energy Administration discussed Frostburg’s microgrid during Microgrid 2021.

Funding critical for microgrid projects in coal country

Located in Maryland’s Appalachian Western region, an area with a long coal mining history, Delia said FSU would not have been able to move the campus microgrid project forward without this newest MEA grant.

The FSU microgrid is already bringing student internships and workforce development opportunities to the area through clean energy certification programs, coursework and degree programs. It’s expected that economic expansion will follow.

According to Jornlin, the grant is “truly a communitywide, collaborative achievement.” He said microgrid projects like the one at Frostburg State University can “transform clients and communities alike, providing a long-term return on investment to public and private investors, as well as for multiple stakeholders in the region.”

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About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. If you’re presenting at a Microgrid Knowledge conference, you can expect to hear from me at some point! I have over 25 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. For the past five years, I’ve focused exclusively on recreational vehicles, electric vehicles, and the renewable energy industry, where I’ve written about utilities, solar, and wind energy companies (I like to keep things diverse!). I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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