Tough Summer for the Power Grid. But the Microgrids are Working

By Microgrid Resources Coalition posted 08-06-2019 11:32


Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge


Severe heat and storms across the US this summer have strained the electric grid and caused extensive power outages. But the microgrids are working.

Consider what happened on July 20 in northeast and north central Wisconsin when a thunderstorm knocked out power to 240,000 customers, leaving 50,000 with no power for two to three days.

The outage was more than an inconvenience; it occurred as visitors from around the world descended on the area for the 2019 EAA AirVenture Show in Oshkosh.

“The economic impact of the power outages was significant. Businesses without power were not able to fully take advantage of this tourism spike, and many restaurants and grocery stores were also faced with lost inventory from having to dispose of temperature-controlled products,” said Renee Torzala, community relations manager for Wisconsin-based Faith Technologies.

But the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve, a 700-acre sanctuary and environmental center in Appleton, dodged the outage because it had installed a microgrid a year earlier.

When the grid outage occurred, the Bubolz microgrid performed as designed, said Don Wingate, vice president, utility & microgrid solutions for Schneider Electric, which built the microgrid with Faith Technologies.

Good thing, too, for the two weddings booked at its lodge that weekend.

“Both Schneider Electric and our alliance partner Faith Technologies are thrilled the weddings were made possible and continued as planned with the support of distributed and sustainable energy,” Wingate said.

The Bubolz microgrid islanded from the central grid within seconds of losing utility power around 11:35 am. It then operated autonomously for about two and a half days — until around 11:40 pm on July 22 when grid power was restored, according to Caramy Biederman, electrical engineering team leader at Faith Technologies.

The microgrid uses on-site solar, a hydrogen fuel cell, battery storage, microturbine and natural gas generator. The solar panels and battery did most of the work.

“The microgrid’s battery and solar solutions powered the site until the battery reached the lower limits of the state of charge. The microturbine then picked up the balance of site loads (around 1 pm), supplemented by the solar available,” Biederman said. “The majority of the outage operated on solar and battery. The excess solar production charged the battery and created hydrogen. The microturbine, battery and fuel cell provided power to the facility when solar was unavailable.”

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