Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge
As energy democracy and social justice increasingly drive energy planning, Chelsea, Massachusetts hopes to become a model for how it’s done by developing a ‘microgrid without borders.’
Community and climate activists, city officials and energy veterans have come together to develop an unusual microgrid designed to incrementally add buildings through virtual, not physical, connections.
David Dayton, CEO of Clean Energy Solutions and a consultant to the project, describes it as a “neighborhood led, municipally sponsored microgrid without borders.” The buildings are connected contractually and through a cloud-based platform, which allows a central controller to aggregate their energy storage, solar power and load management into a virtual power plant.
Located near Boston, Chelsea is a small industrial city, just 2.2 square miles, and one of the state’s most population dense. The city has many reasons for pursuing the microgrid, but it was an event nearly 1,700 miles away that became a driving force for action: Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The storm decimated most of the island’s grid in 2017, creating the largest blackout in US history. For Chelsea’s large Puerto Rican population, the hardship felt close to home.
“After Hurricane Maria people were waiting for the state to come in and bail them out and it never happened,” said Fidel Maltez, commissioner of the Chelsea Department of Public Works, in an interview with Microgrid Knowledge. “People have to come together on their own and really figure out resiliency.”