Schneider Electric to deploy microgrid energy system at Boston One Campus

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Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management and automation, will build a microgrid system at its Boston One Campus to develop, test and showcase microgrid energy management solutions.

The system will include a 400 kW photovoltaic system built and operated by REC Solar, a national provider of commercial solar and energy solutions.

The microgrid will be deployed via a new business model that does not require any capital investment by Schneider Electric. It is expected to begin generating 560,000 kilowatt-hours per year of electricity by the fall of 2016.

The regulatory and free-market tailwinds are helping increase the viability of microgrids nationally, Andy Bennett, senior vice president of U.S. Energy Business for Schneider Electric, said Tuesday morning during the company’s Executive Briefing in Orlando during DistribuTECH 2016.

The microgrid movement also is pushed ahead by adoption of demand-response strategies, greater IT/OT convergence and, last but not least, money and access to money.

“There is unparalled capital pouring into the industry to support microgrids,” Bennett said.

Tom Fenimore, Duke Energy’s technology development manager in emerging technologies, noted that Duke has gained invaluable experiences in the microgrid space. The utility’s McAlpine Microgrid project created such a contained system with solar power and energy storage capacity to support a fire station in Charlotte, North Carolina.

That project began in 2009 on a handshake deal with the city of Charlotte.

“They were so willing to work with us,” Fenimore recalled at the Schneider Executive Briefing. “If it didn’t work, they had (a diesel) generator. I’m pleased to say we didn’t need to run the generator.”

Beyond saving the company nearly 5 percent on electricity costs at the site in its first year, the microgrid will offer power resiliency in the event of a power loss from the local utility.

The system includes Schneider Electric photovoltaic inverters that convert direct current from the solar modules to alternating current that will be used by the facility for power. It will also store up to 1 megawatt-hour of electricity using EcoBlade, the company's fully flexible energy storage system powered by lithium-ion batteries. EcoBlade can be integrated into the wide ecosystem of Schneider Electric solutions for electricity using the StruxureWare software suite of cloud-based integrated service modules.

The company's microgrid controller and StruxureWare Demand Side Operation will optimize use of photovoltaic energy, storage and the facility's existing natural gas generation set during grid-connected and islanded operation. StruxureWare collects and manages weather and operational data, optimizing energy performance across the entire chain to deliver cost effective energy storage and consumption.

The microgrid will use 1,613 solar modules. Phase one construction is expected to begin in early spring 2016, with installation of 209 photovoltaic modules on the roof of the site's main building. Phase two should begin late spring with construction of carports that will hold 1,404 photovoltaic panels. The carports are also designed so that electric vehicle charging stations can be added.

Located in Andover, Mass., the Boston One Campus is U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified. It was built on the company's vision of sustainable design and energy efficiency using about $8 million of its own Schneider Electric products and solutions.

Made up of more than 240,000 square feet across two buildings, the campus serves as the company's North American headquarters and one of five global research and development centers worldwide. The company's North American headquarters is home to about 750 employees across all disciplines of Schneider Electric's business units and part of the company's mission to drive innovation, collaboration and efficiency. It was designed to foster employee collaboration and innovation with customers, R&D engineers and employees. The campus is also a fully immersive Discovery Center that demonstrates the Schneider Electric energy management and innovation story.

The Schneider Electric Boston One Campus is located at 800 Federal Street in Andover, Mass.

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