Ameren Completes Multi-Tech Clean Energy Microgrid
Ameren Corp. has completed what the energy company is touting as one of the most technologically advanced utility-scale microgrids in North America.
The $5 million facility, located at Ameren’s Technology Applications Center adjacent to the University of Illinois campus in Champaign, Ill., includes a 160-foot wind turbine, solar panels, and natural gas generators that can produce enough electricity to power nearly 200 local residential and commercial customers. Ameren built the hybrid microgrid facility to test monitoring and control methods for aggregating these clean energy sources with advanced automation and battery storage.
Ameren says its microgrid is one of the few in the world that operate at utility-scale voltages, between 4 kV and 34.5 kV, with multiple levels of control that seamlessly transition the power source for an entire distribution circuit from exclusively distributed generation sources to the traditional grid. This concept, known as “islanding,” enables Ameren to deliver more than 1 MW to live (paying) customers without experiencing an outage.
“Integrating microgrids onto our system can provide cleaner energy and a stronger, smarter grid capable of delivering the products and services to fit the needs of our future customers and the communities we serve,” says Warner Baxter, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Corp. “There is no better time than now to innovate and position Ameren for even better results in the years ahead.”
According to Ameren, the leased generation assets located on-site include a 100 kW Northern Power Systems wind turbine; a 125 kW solar array; two Caterpillar natural gas generators that can generate a total of 1,000 kW; and an S&C Electric Co. battery system that stores power from the generation sources and can supply 250 kW of energy for two hours.
“Our focus on building a next-generation energy delivery system has enabled Illinois to emerge as a national leader in smart grid innovation,” says Richard J. Mark, chairman and president of utility subsidiary Ameren Illinois. “As the technologies we are testing at this microgrid facility become more accessible in the future, our customers will be able to count on Ameren Illinois to help them safely install and cost-effectively operate distributed generation resources.”
Rabbi Calls Temple’s Array An ‘Actualization Of Our Values’
Temple Beth Elohim, a Wellesley, Mass.-based Reform congregation, has installed a 37 kW solar array atop the roof of its synagogue. Completed in partnership with solar provider Solect Energy and energy buying consortium PowerOptions, the project is a significant addition to the congregation’s efforts toward sustainability.
“Our Temple Beth Elohim community has, for a very long time, considered the importance of sustainability and environmental protection. Preserving our resources and being stewards and protectors of our earth are values that we find in our ancient Jewish texts,” explains Rabbi Rachel Saphire. “Installing solar panels at the temple is an actualization of our values, a way to model sustainability for our congregants, and a concrete effort to reduce our carbon footprint. We are proud to fulfill this sacred obligation and perform such an important mitzvah (commandment) of our tradition.”
As a nonprofit that is unable to benefit from renewable energy federal and state tax incentives, the Temple faced a number of options for financing and installing the solar array, according to Solect Energy. After comparing rooftop solar opportunities from different vendors, a team of congregants, staff and clergy at Temple Beth Elohim selected Solect’s small systems solar program with PowerOptions. Under the program, Solect installed and will own and operate the solar array and sell the power generated under a power purchase agreement (PPA) at a fixed rate for a period of 20 years.
However, completing the transaction was not as straightforward as in many other towns, Solect notes. Solar generation works differently under municipal utilities than it does in an investor-owned territory with utilities like Eversource and National Grid. Wellesley is one of about 40 towns in Massachusetts that purchase power from the electric utility owned by the municipality – in this case, the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant (WMLP). Solect says Massachusetts laws require the utility to be the reseller of power to its customers within the town boundaries, so making the array a reality required a PPA with the WMLP.
Under the agreement, the power generated from the array is purchased by the WMLP, which then sells it to the Temple.
“We worked to streamline the interconnection process with Solect, and the PPA proved instrumental for the temple,” says Kevin Sullivan, assistant superintendent for the WMLP. “Bringing Temple Beth Elohim’s array online brought the WMLP total connected solar generation to 700 kW in the town of Wellesley. We are proud to be a part of power generation from renewable alternatives.”
“We took a great deal of pride in completing this project for Temple Beth Elohim,” adds Alex Keally, senior vice president of business operations at Solect. “It required hard work and collaboration from a number of different parties to develop this innovative solution, and I’m thrilled we made it work for the congregation.”
D.C. Sports Arena Will Tap Into Off-Site Solar
Monumental Sports & Entertainment and WGL Energy Services Inc. have announced a partnership that will allow Verizon Center – a Washington, D.C., arena home to the Washington Wizards, Capitals, Mystics and Valor, as well as concerts and other entertainment events – to purchase power from a new solar facility in Maryland.
The solar electricity purchased by Monumental Sports & Entertainment to power Verizon Center will be sourced from an off-site, third-party-owned solar facility in Frederick County, Md., and bundled with national solar renewable energy credits – allowing the sports and entertainment facility to operate using 25% solar energy.
“Off-site renewable energy is one of the fastest-growing sectors within the energy industry,” says Dr. Louis J. Hutchinson III, vice president and chief revenue officer for WGL. “As renewable energy offerings continue to mature, it’s exciting to see the sports industry play a major role in sourcing off-site renewable energy.” WGL has served as the official energy and greening partner of Verizon Center since 2015.
“Sustainability is at the core of our operations,” says Dave Touhey, president of venues at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates Verizon Center. “We are excited to expand our energy relationship with WGL Energy by entering into this new partnership to bring more renewable energy to Verizon Center.”
Beginning in late 2017, Verizon Center will receive about 4.7 million kWh per year of energy from 3.5 MW of the solar project. Verizon Center is a member of the Green Sports Alliance, and through this new partnership, the Wizards, Capitals, Mystics and Valor are among the first professional sports teams powered by off-site renewable energy.
“While arenas or ballparks often have obstacles for installing on-site energy sources due to limited space, off-site energy provides opportunities for teams across the country to benefit from renewable energy,” says Justin Zeulner, executive director at the Green Sports Alliance. “Verizon Center and its teams are setting a prime example of promoting sustainable communities among their passionate fan base.”
52 MW Solar Project Under Way For Mississippi Co-op
Origis Energy USA and Cooperative Energy, a Mississippi-based generation and transmission cooperative, have broken ground on a 52 MW project near Sumrall in Lamar County, Miss.
The project is expected to create approximately 400 jobs during construction, and the 540-acre solar site will include 206,892 photovoltaic panels when completed in December. Origis Energy has developed and will install and operate the facility, and Cooperative Energy will buy all of the output to provide clean energy to the co-op’s 423,000 members across Mississippi.
“Our members have told us they want more renewable energy in our portfolio,” says Jim Compton, Cooperative Energy’s president and CEO. “The project provides a significant amount of solar energy to power the homes and businesses we serve. So, we are responding to our members and also providing clean, affordable energy.”
“We are honored to be working with Cooperative Energy as they power more homes and businesses with solar every year,” adds Johan Vanhee, managing director of business development for Origis Energy. “These utility and community leaders understand that solar provides clean, affordable power while creating jobs, economic and environmental benefits.”
Cooperative Energy began its venture into solar generation sites in 2016 with the installation of five smaller solar installations (100 kW or less) at five member locations across the state.
Partners Commission Utility-Scale Solar Farm In Jacksonville
Developer groSolar, municipal utility JEA, and AEP OnSite Partners, an American Electric Power company, have announced commercial operation of the 7 MW Northwest Jacksonville Solar Partners (NWJAX) solar farm in Jacksonville, Fla.
Located on Arnold Road just north of the Jacksonville International Airport, the NWJAX project is owned by AEP OnSite Partners and features single-axis trackers that track the sun from east to west throughout the day to increase the efficiency of the project. Throughout the design and construction of the project, groSolar used numerous local contractors and small businesses to assist in the development of the project. In addition to the clean energy that the project provides to Jacksonville residents through JEA, the site features wetlands flowage improvements and landscaping designed to positively impact the site and surrounding ecosystem.
“JEA is committed to environmental stewardship and to increasing its level of carbon-free renewable energy generation,” says Paul McElroy, CEO of JEA. “This partnership with groSolar will expand our solar footprint and provide our customers with an environmentally friendly and efficient option for their power needs.”