St. Louis-based Microgrid Solar is proud to be the engineer-of-record and installer of the first microgrid in the U.S. to be centered around a “Solar Village”. Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) created the Solar Village, which consists of multiple houses built by the university’s students, from 2002 to 2009, for competition in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. This competition challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. Missouri S&T students, faculty and staff, along with members of the university’s microgrid advisory board (Ameren, City Utilities of Springfield, Rolla Municipal Utilities and Electric Power Research Institute), several Missouri manufacturers (Milbank, EPRI, and Ford) and the Army Corps of Engineers, have worked together for two years to design and implement the advanced microgrid testing facility at the Rolla, Mo., campus.
The term “microgrid” is used to describe an energy “islanding” capability, whereby a campus or grouping of buildings, has the ability to operate independently from the electrical grid and other centralized power sources, creating its own smaller grid, essentially. Typically microgrids are utilized for military bases, hospitals, or other buildings campuses that involve critical power loads. But increasingly, Microgrids are being used in a wider range of situations, and are viewed as a viable solution to improve grid stability. Most microgrids employ a combination of onsite power generation (solar, wind, gas turbines, etc), power storage, energy efficiency upgrades, and a management system.
As part of this collaboration with the project partners, Microgrid Solar was responsible for overall engineering and design, ensuring the project complies with existing electrical codes, and determining how all of the many components of this project will connect and function together efficiently.
According to Tony Arnold, Assistant Director of the Office of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engagement at Missouri S&T, “The intent is for the microgrid to be used as a research tool and testing center for microgrid technology, battery technology and system communications. This facility will also be an exhibit for outreach and awareness of energy technology as a whole. Projects like these have to be scalable, replicable and flexible, so that we have the opportunity to test as many different scenarios as possible.” Arnold added, “Agencies interested include major utilities, companies and the U.S. Army’s Prime Power School.”
Microgrids have the potential to change the way communities generate and use energy by reducing cost, increasing reliability and improving environmental performance. “Integrating renewables and energy storage into existing electrical grids and creating reliable, stand-alone, multiple-source systems are the two most important challenges in advancing our understanding and adoption of non-fossil-fuel energy sources,” said Marc Lopata, PE, the Principal Engineer on this project and President of Microgrid Solar. “The research that Missouri S&T and the university’s industry partners do with this versatile testing facility will help to pave the way for significant progress toward energy security and independence.”
Source: Polansky Group