Microgrids are designed to harness renewable energy and make it available for all kinds of reasons. Often microgrids are used when disasters cause larger utility grids to falter or shut down completely. They also are used as backup power for hospital systems, school campuses, and other governmental entities. Microgrids are a critical component of the resilience movement.

The federal government has allocated funding from dozens of new programs for projects that support resilience. Microgrid projects have become attractive targets for funding. An abundance of new microgrid projects is almost guaranteed because of the $17 billion in funding that is now available through the US Department of Energy, as a part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

In Rockingham County, New Hampshire, plans have been announced for a new county complex that include a microgrid that will be the largest solar grid in the state. It will be located on thirteen acres adjacent to the site of a new complex. The project’s overall cost will be approximately $68 million and is set to launch in 2022.

A self-sustaining microgrid fed by on-site solar generation is at the center of plans to modernize a critical transit hub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The microgrid will provide power to convert the Rehoboth Park & Ride facility into an updated transit center for an overall price of $12 million. The microgrid project will supply power to a new administrative building, eight new bus-boarding areas, public electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and redesigned ticket area.

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A new microgrid is planned for Ohio’s second most populated county of Cuyahoga, which encompasses the industrial center of Cleveland. County officials will invest $1.5 million in a microgrid located next to a cluster of manufacturing businesses. The project, which is in the planning phase, includes construction of a solar energy system, battery storage, smart grid controls, and a local distribution network. Upon completion, the microgrid project will ensure sustainable power supply for a concentration of manufacturers that have recently reported diminished productivity and profits because of recurring power outages.

Projects like this are about to become a prominent feature of the county, and that prospect comes with opportunities for potential private partners. In June, county officials released a request for information (RFI) about possible models, time commitments, and technical capabilities needed to develop multiple microgrids through public-private partnerships. The RFI has a July 15 deadline for responses. Its recent release anticipates a request for proposals (RFP) for an expected “one or more private partners” for a county microgrid utility. The plan then entails “contracting with engineering, procurement, and construction teams” on the future microgrids.

Public officials in California will invest in numerous microgrids at every jurisdiction of government. The California Department of General Services recently issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) that will close later this summer for planning, development, and other architectural and engineering services related to microgrids. The RFQ is a precursor to a potential three-year contract of up to $5 million to carry out preliminary design work on microgrid projects that emerge at the state level, including a potential microgrid project designed to meet sustainability and resilience goals at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

In Thousand Oaks, California, an upcoming investment of $1.9 million in public funding will enable work to begin on a microgrid and accompanying energy storage system. The city microgrid project will be installed at the city’s municipal service facility, which supports local utilities, maintenance needs, public transportation vehicles, and emergency operations.  Renewable energy from the microgrid will ensure off-grid, automated operations classified as critical services.

Microgrid activity in states such as Hawaii offers insight into future, large, next-generational microgrid projects. The state is currently allocating $500,000 for services related to a microgrid feasibility study that may last for years. Despite the extended timeline of the study, its results are expected to usher in an exponentially greater interest in microgrids, specifically larger ones that can be expanded for airports.

Other microgrid projects are smaller in size but more abundant in quantity. Officials in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, recently acquired funding for a new microgrid that will be designed to increase resilience and reliance on local renewable energy sources to support anticipated growth. The project—currently in preliminary planning—will carry a cost of about $1.1 million.

City leaders in Port Murray, New Jersey, will launch a microgrid project designed to harness photovoltaic (PV) solar energy. The microgrid’s PV system will connect to an on-site battery that stores 72 hours of back-up energy for use during emergency outages. Construction of the $1.7 million microgrid will also supply renewable energy to EV chargers for the city.

With available funding and mandates for resiliency, microgrids will become even more common.  This is an escalating trend that should not be overlooked.

Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.