Studying the feasibility of a microgrid in fault-prone Wisconsin


With Wisconsin customers experiencing more frequent outages due to high winds, winter storms, and spring and summer flooding, Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has completed microgrid feasibility studies that identify options for a monastery, a school, a sewage treatment plant and a police department.

microgrid feasibility studies

Storm clouds form over Green Lake, Wisconsin. By ptpstudio4

Jared Leader, Director, Resilience, SEPA, hopes the SEPA process can serve as a model for the deployment of microgrids across the United States.

“This analysis can serve as a model for others to do the same and launch carbon-free projects on the ground,” he said.

The studies were funded by the Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation’s Microgrids and Community Resilience Centers (CIMCRC) Pilot Grant Program, which focuses on deploying microgrids and other distributed energy resources to ensure resilience.

The program offered $985,000. The Wisconsin Civil Service Commission split the money among 15 candidates. SEPA received funding for four of the projects. The whole of the subsidies awarded under the program were for critical infrastructure micro-grids and community resilience centers.

While some states carefully review all critical infrastructure to determine where to locate microgrids, SEPA has taken a different approach in Wisconsin. The organization identified sites whose owners had already shown interest in distributed energy resources, resilience or
generation on site, said the chef.

The goal

The goal was to take advantage of projects with existing infrastructure or a site that performs an emergency function that would benefit from backup power, Leader explained. Some utility customers were already subscribing to resilience-as-a-service options offered by utilities and third parties.

The SEPA process involved working with WPPI Energy – a non-profit organization that supplies wholesale electricity to 51 community utilities – as well as local utilities and electric customers. SEPA considered issues such as natural disaster risk, customer emission reduction targets and critical facilities. The economic and technical feasibility of adding solar, storage and other microgrid technologies to build resilience was also examined. The studies identify several options for achieving resilience, carbon emission reductions, savings and revenues.

Reason: carbon reduction

An example is the Monastery of Holy Wisdom, which has on-site solar power and aims to achieve net zero energy. Stakeholders – SEPA, Holy Wisdom Monastery’s Director of Operations, Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction and local utility Madison Gas & Electric – participated in the design process and met monthly to discuss options . During the process, they chose four design scenarios, based on a summary of the SEPA project and the Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation.

The monastery is designated as an emergency shelter that would provide essential services to air travelers stranded at Dane County Airport in the event of an emergency. And the monastery infrastructure is named an emergency location for Westport Township administrators during an extended outage.

Holy Wisdom Monastery has an agreement with Madison Gas & Electric under which the utility owns and operates a diesel generator, and the monastery pays about $3,000 a year for resiliency through the generator, Leader said.

“The reason for the utility’s participation in the study was to explore a carbon-free solution for its customer,” Leader said. The utility already provides a resilience service on site; Including him in the team helped create a sense of continuity. The utility and the monastery are exploring both customer-owned behind-the-meter solutions and utility-owned front-of-the-meter solutions to achieve the monastery’s sustainability and resilience goals, Leader said.

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In its analysis for Holy Wisdom, SEPA created a benefit-cost analysis of the four different scenarios chosen by stakeholders and concluded that the benefits outweigh the costs in all scenarios, over the life of the project, with some scenarios offering more advantages than others.

The scenarios included ground-mounted solar panels in each case, as well as batteries of different sizes. In Scenario A, a 175kW/500kWh battery would provide short-term resiliency, peak shaving, and energy arbitrage. In scenario B, a 150 kW/600 kWh battery would smooth out the peaks. Scenario C envisioned a 150kW/600kWh battery for energy arbitrage and Scenario D envisioned a 1000kW/4000kWh battery for long-term resiliency and economic dispatch.

The study looked at the net present value of the costs plus the net present value of the benefits. The net present value of the costs ranged from $831,927 for Scenario A to $2,848,195 for Scenario D. The current net benefits in the four scenarios ranged from $629,406 (Scenario B) to $677,179 (Scenario A) .


Along the way, the team assessed how to balance priorities.

Some benefits may simply go to the customer, and some may go to utilities and their taxpayers, Leader said.

“Microgrid projects can be optimized around economic viability, sustainability and resilience. We helped our project teams and stakeholders make decisions starting with site resiliency needs and sustainability goals,” Leader said. Teams considered decisions such as sending the battery for customer demand savings or for grid services, or to maintain battery charge for reserve in the event of a grid outage. If the battery is reserved for resiliency, it cannot be used for network services, he noted.

Each decision had its own pros and cons, and the studies analyzed them in qualitative and quantitative terms, he added.

And after

After the monastery study is completed, the stakeholders will create a more detailed benefit-cost analysis and proceed to the implementation phase of the microgrid development.

Possible next steps include identifying ownership and operating structures, coordinating construction, identifying funding and finance, and deploying a full engineering design and construction study, the summary states. of the project.

Other Microgrid Feasibility Studies

SEPA conducted similar studies for Florence Elementary School – an American Red Cross shelter – the Heart of the Valley Metropolitan Sewer District Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Sauk Police Department. Prairie, home to an emergency operations center that provides essential services to residents of Sauk County in the event of an emergency.

Forming a team is easier

The studies demonstrate how microgrids can support the transition to a carbon-free energy future and how organizations can work together to create innovative solutions for customers, Leader said.

“At first glance, a microgrid project can be an overwhelming undertaking for a monastery, school district, sewer district or police commission. However, when presented as an on-site solution in terms of resilience, energy savings and reduced carbon emissions, customers and utilities can make informed decisions for their communities,” said Leader. .

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