What is a microgrid?
A microgrid is a coordinated local grid area served by one or more distribution substations and supported by distributed energy resources (DER) that can: (1) generate electricity, heating and/or cooling; (2) distribute the energy generated; and (3) manage energy consumption using “smart” technology in real time. These distributed energy resources can include energy storage, solar arrays, and combined heat and power (CHP) plants.
Microgrids are connected to the larger electric grid in the normal course of operation. Microgrids are designed to operate detached from the grid in “island mode” as well when the main grid is down or during an emergency.
What is the Cleveland Microgrid Project?
µGrid Cle, or the Cleveland Microgrid Project, is a feasibility study to evaluate the potential demand, costs, benefits, design, and logistics of a microgrid infrastructure project in downtown Cleveland. The project is funded by the Cleveland Foundation and Cuyahoga County. Study partners include:
Benefits of a Microgrid
- Cuyahoga County
- City of Cleveland/Cleveland Public Power
- Cleveland State University
- Case Western Reserve University
- International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE)
- Cleveland Thermal, Inc.
- Green Strategies, LLC
Valuing Power Resiliency
- Reliable Energy. Microgrids ensure power is not lost when the main grid is offline so that operations continue during outage events such as the Northeastern blackout of 2003 and extreme weather.
- Cost Savings. Natural gas-fired CHP plants will form the backbone of power generation in the microgrid. Cleveland enjoys access to a long-term supply of inexpensive natural gas as a result of nearby production from the Utica Shale formation. Additional savings may also be realized on backup power facilities and business interruption insurance. The goal of the microgrid will be to provide resilient power to its members at or below current average energy prices.
- Power Quality. The microgrid controller and communication architecture identifies and manages power variability issues such as voltage sags and surges to ensure the delivery of qualitatively consistent electricity.
- Cleaner Power. Microgrid systems are often identified as a strategy for enabling a more rapid adoption of renewable power generation such as from wind and solar. Waste heat will be turned into electricity through CHP from Cleveland Thermal.
- Revenue Potential. Surplus power that is generated can be sold back to the larger grid.
Cost savings would come in a variety of ways for microgrid customers, ranging from reduced capacity, demand and transmission fees to lower business interruption insurance premiums. A microgrid that provides “5 nine resiliency” (i.e. 99.999% uptime) would save consumers that require this sort of power between $0.05-0.21/kWh, depending upon circumstances. In addition, consumers will avoid lost opportunity costs. The value of lost load varies among industries, with insurance companies, computer services and law firms among those who suffer the most opportunity costs. However even manufacturing, which is better able to withstand interruption, incurs significant losses. A household appliance manufacturer that uses 10 megawatts of power, for instance, would lose around $400,000 in an hour of outage.