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Note: This blog was originally published August 15, 2014.

Earlier this week, I joined Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, the CEOs of Green Mountain Power and Dynapower, and Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras for the groundbreaking of a major innovative project in Rutland, Vermont. OE is partnering with the State of Vermont Public Service, Green Mountain Power, and Dynapower on a resilience microgrid that will combine 2.5 MW of solar generation with 4MW of energy storage. 

Vermont has had its share of severe weather such as Hurricane Irene which caused what is considered to be one of the Northeast’s worst flood disasters and ranks among the top 10 costliest disasters in U.S. history. So resiliency of the electrical system is a high priority.

Sited on a so-called brownfield, the integrated system will provide clean, distributed generation and resilient power to an economically-challenged, urban community that is targeted for revitalization. The idea is to pair photovoltaic (PV) and storage in such a way that a high school which serves as a public emergency center can be islanded to maintain critical facilities when the grid is down. At other times, the storage installation will contribute to optimal integration of PV in the power grid and generate revenues.

The Rutland project was initiated through a joint solicitation by the Vermont Office of Public Services and OE’s Energy Storage program. The aim of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility of a storage microgrid that can last indefinitely on renewables alone. Using innovative power electronics will considerably lower the cost.

The project has a number of unusual aspects. This is one of the first projects ever to use shared power electronics between PV and storage. Both are DC (direct current) devices, so that considerable savings in capital and maintenance cost as well increased energy efficiency can be achieved. In addition, this is expected to be the first system in the country that will be able to maintain mission critical power on renewables and storage alone for extended periods of time. The technology integrating energy storage with PV will be used in other PV projects. 

The project is off to a good start. It is hoped that this project will serve as a model for future resiliency microgrids in areas vulnerable to natural disasters.