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Duke Energy, Schneider Electric Leverage “Microgrid as a Service” for Maryland Community Projects

Duke Energy Renewables and Schneider Electric on Feb. 1 announced they’re joining in a public-private partnership that entails building two hybrid community microgrids to enhance electricity services for the Public Safety Headquarters (PSHQ) and County Correctional Facility (CCF) in Maryland’s Montgomery County.

The advanced hybrid microgrids will incorporate natural gas, solar PV and combined heat and power (CHP) to provide uninterrupted 24x7 electricity service during emergencies and normal, everyday operating conditions, the project partners highlight. 

Significantly when it comes to project economics, both microgrids are being financed at zero upfront cost to the county via Schneider Electric’s Microgrid-as-a-Service (MaaS) business model, as well as a special purpose power purchase agreement (PPA). Resulting savings will help cover the overall project costs. 

Critical Community Services

Able to operate independently, as well as in tandem with, the local power grid, the hybrid community microgrids will enhance the efficiency, reliability and resiliency of power supply to the two facilities, as well as significantly reduce associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and environmental pollution, the project partners explain.

The Montgomery County PSHQ houses central County Police and County Fire and Rescue Services, the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS), and the 1st District Police Station. Located in Boyds, the Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF) is responsible for the custody and care of about 1,000 inmates, according to the press release.

Collectively, the hybrid community microgrids’ 2MW solar PV array will produce some 3.3 million kWh of solar energy annually, equivalent to that required to power some 400 average homes.

In addition to solar PV and natural gas power generation, the microgrid systems will save energy by incorporating 7.4 million kWh’s worth of CHP a year. As Duke explains, the 800kW CHP system will use what would otherwise be waste heat from on-site power generation to heat and cool the buildings. 

The CHP system will also serve in lieu of energy storage capacity to power the two facilities in island mode when solar power is not available or in the event of a prolonged outage, a Duke Energy spokesperson added.

A Public-Private Microgrid Partnership

“Critical public safety facilities require 24/7 access to power to ensure operational integrity,” Duke Energy Renewables points out. That’s exactly what the two hybrid community microgrids are designed to provide, the project partners highlight.

"I am pleased we are making significant strides in several of our key priorities—sustainability, safety and security," commented Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett.

"Microgrids and other upgrades to critical facilities improve the County's resiliency, so we can keep residents safe and provide needed services even in the event of prolonged power outages."

Schneider Electric is playing a big role in designing and building the two hybrid community microgrids. That includes providing microgrid protection control and optimization, electrical equipment, distributed energy resource management (DERM), electrical design services, cybersecurity and network design, according to the news release. 

Duke Energy Renewables will own both microgrids, while affiliate REC Solar will build the solar PV system. Both REC and Schneider will assist Duke Energy Renewables operating the two microgrids. 

In addition to improved economics and electricity provision, it’s projected that the two community microgrids will reduce GHG emissions by 3,629 metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 767 cars off the road, according to the project partners. 

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