Schneider, Duke Energy deploying microgrids for public safety facilities in Maryland

The county will buy the energy output from Duke on a long-term power purchase agreement

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Schneider Electric and Duke Energy Renewables will partner on deploying two advanced microgrids for public safety facilities in populous Montgomery County, Maryland, the companies announced Wednesday.

The two microgrid assets, which will be owned by Duke, will serve the Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters and Correctional Facility. The county will buy the energy output from Duke on a long-term power purchase agreement.

The microgrid deal was announced during Schneider Electric’s Executive Breakfast Briefing as part of the DistribuTECH Conference and Exhibition in San Diego. Eric Coffman, chief of energy and sustainability for Montgomery County, who spoke remotely at the Schneider event, noted that his community has a history of widespread outages due to major storms and other factors.

Having crucial public safety facilities wired into the microgrid, and thus able to island and maintain power even during widespread outages, drove the decision to work with the companies, Coffman added.

“Those two facilities are so essential that was the impetus for this project going forward,” he said.

Improvements include upgrades in infrastructure at PSHQ and Montgomery County Correctional Facility, as well as clean on-site power generation through a solar energy system and natural gas generators that enable uninterrupted public services during emergencies. Often called “island mode operation,” this functionality allows facilities to intentionally, or automatically, separate from the electric grid and continue to operate at, or near, normal capacity for extended periods during power outages.

By funding and developing both microgrids through Schneider Electric’s Microgrid-as-a-Service (MaaS) business model, Montgomery County can complete construction without any upfront costs to the County.

Montgomery County officials predict that this way of financing resiliency projects can be a workable model for other local government and private sector customers.

Schneider Electric will design and implement microgrid protection control and optimization, electrical equipment, distributed energy resource (DER) management, electrical design services, cybersecurity and network design.

Duke Energy Renewables will own both advanced microgrids, and its affiliate, REC Solar, will build the solar system. Schneider Electric will also assist Duke Energy Renewables in the operation of the microgrids.

“It’s more important than ever to meet customers’ evolving needs through solutions that are creative, affordable and dependable,” said Rob Caldwell, president, Duke Energy Renewables and Distributed Energy Technology, in a statement. “With more than 100 years of utility experience and an established renewables business, we bring the expertise in generating cleaner energy that will serve to increase the security and sustainability for these county facilities.”

The microgrids will produce approximately 3.3 million kWh of solar energy each year, equivalent to powering about 400 average homes each year. The systems also will include 7.4 million kWh of combined heat and power each year, which saves energy by using waste heat from on-site power generation to heat and cool the buildings.

Combined, the on-site power generation at these two facilities is anticipated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3,629 metric tons each year, as much as taking 767 cars off the road. The advanced microgrids include technologies to enable predictive management and optimization of energy usage during grid connected and island modes.

“By deploying advanced microgrids, Montgomery County is directing its energy future. This underscores our approach to innovate at every level of our offer, both in the technology and the financial structure,” said Phillip Barton, director of Schneider Electric Microgrid Competency Center. “Using the Schneider Electric Microgrid-as-a-Service offer removes the up-front cost hurdles for Montgomery County, while increasing resiliency, efficiency and sustainability.”

The Montgomery County PSHQ houses central County Police and County Fire and Rescue Services functions, the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS), and the 1st District Police Station.

The Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF), located in Boyds, Maryland, is responsible for the custody and care of about 1,000 inmates.

The two advanced microgrids will become fully operational in 2018.

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