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The Philadelphia Navy Yard Story: The Remarkable Emergence of an Unintentional Microgrid

By Microgrid Resources Coalition posted 12-10-2019 12:36


Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge


From rags to riches, the Philadelphia Navy Yard offers one of the more remarkable tales of the emergence of a microgrid.

A factory within the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Photo by Felix Lipov/

Located at the confluence of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, the site was an abandoned shipyard 20 years ago with most of its electric service turned off. Today, it’s a thriving commercial center, powered by one of the nation’s most sophisticated — and evolving — microgrids.

Credit for its success goes to an unusual coming together of the military, the city of Philadelphia, the local electric utility, a development authority and some energy visionaries. Oh, and dog lovers.

The story begins in the late 1990s when the federal government decided to shutdown the Naval shipyard, one of 97 major installations closed as part of the United States post Cold War military cutback. The decision left city officials trying to figure out how to blunt the economic loss. The shipyard, once one of the world’s largest, employed 47,000 people at its height during World War II. By the time it announced plans to close, it had 7,400 employees.

The city turned the project over to the Philadelphia Economic Development Corporation (PIDC), a public/private entity charged with redeveloping the 1,200 acres into a commercial center.

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