A Microgrid Pilot Program in Wisconsin Aims to Boost Resilience

In an effort to provide energy customers with optimal energy provision, a Wisconsin utility has proposed a novel microgrid pilot program that will pave the way for 22 microgrid projects and ultimately offer energy consumers access to cleaner, more reliable power.

Across much of America, power outages and intermittency are leading to business interruption and significant financial loss. It seems we’ve reached a critical intersection, at which point the ‘x’ and ‘y’ axes of extreme weather events and aging energy infrastructure have met.

In a world increasingly reliant on digital communication and commerce, building hybrid energy systems aimed at resiliency is becoming a top priority for power providers nationwide.

One Wisconsin utility is taking noteworthy steps to build resiliency with a newly proposed microgrid pilot program. Northern States Power (NSP), Excel Energy’s Wisconsin utility, has outlined a microgrid pilot program that will ultimately include 22 projects.

The program’s aim is to support utility customers that require “higher than standard” service reliability. It will enhance resiliency through company ownership, installation, operation and maintenance of assets such as batteries, generation resources and switching and control equipment. Customers will pay for the use of resiliency service assets through an on-bill charge. Because costs are recovered directly, the pilot will not be subsidized by non-participating customers.

The program will reduce upfront costs for customers and provide resiliency solutions tailored to customer needs. Customers will work with NSP and contractors from a preferred vendors list to design, construct and interconnect their systems. This will create a streamlined project development process.

The pilot is based in part on Xcel Energy’s experience with resiliency projects in its Colorado subsidiary, Public Service Company, most notably the Panasonic Battery Storage Microgrid near the Denver International Airport. 

Xcel Energy found that an increasing number of customers in Colorado and Wisconsin, even beyond the commercial and industrial segment, are interested in boosting resiliency to meet reliability and power quality needs.

“Some communities, either through governmental initiatives or public-private partnerships, are establishing or increasing their focus on resiliency centers to maintain stable functioning of society during and immediately following a major disruption or weather event,” the Wisconsin utility said.

Among the customers supporting the program are the Gundersen Health System, the city of La Crosse’s municipal utility and the city of Eau Claire. The company has limited the pilot to 30 MW of combined capacity of battery and generation assets, with 10 MW reserved for government or non-profit customers during the first few years of the pilot.

NSP explains that beyond resilience, the microgrids will provide customers with additional benefits ranging from energy arbitrage and reduced demand charges, while also helping many meet their greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

HOMER software delivers industry-leading system simulations, optimization, sensitivity analysis and best-in-class storage models across three categories of hybrid systems: islanded microgrids, grid-connected distributed generation, and front-of-the-meter utility-scale storage and hybrid systems.

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