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Montgomery County, Maryland's Microgrids are a Smart Solution to Improved Resilience

Eric Coffman, Chief - Office of Energy and Sustainability - Department of General Services, Montgomery County Government
Eric Coffman, Chief - Office of Energy and Sustainability - Department of General Services, Montgomery County Government

Eric Coffman, Chief - Office of Energy and Sustainability - Department of General Services, Montgomery County Government

Montgomery County, Maryland, is embracing advanced microgrids as a smart solution to improve the resiliency of public facilities while reducing the environmental impacts and long-term operational costs to the community. Microgrids are local power systems that use clean and renewable energy sources to provide electricity, heat, and cooling to a facility on an ongoing basis. These advanced systems provide smart public infrastructure, enabling facilities to operate independently of the grid, enhancing the delivery of crucial services to the community.

  The microgrids at PSHQ and MCCF with solar and CHP generation generates over 90 percent of the electricity used by the buildings on site. 

When considering building microgrids, Montgomery County focuses first on facilities that provide key services to the community that is needed to ensure public safety and disaster response; the County is also exploring microgrids as an opportunity to achieve economic development and other social outcomes. The microgrid initiative was launched to harden infrastructure in the wake of several large scale and extended power outages due to major storms. Microgrids incorporating clean energy are one of many solutions needed to achieve the County Government’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2027 and zero emissions by 2035. Montgomery County has operating microgrids at its Public Safety Headquarters (PSHQ) in Gaithersburg and the Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF) in Boyds. Commissioned in summer 2018, both projects feature microgrids with advanced technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP) and solar energy.

PSHQ is the County’s primary administrative hub for a range of critical public services. The facility houses much of Montgomery County’s transportation management resources, components of the County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Police Headquarters and an active police station serving much of the central part of the County. MCCF is a correction and rehabilitation facility responsible for approximately 1,000 inmates. The County leveraged its innovative energy purchasing regulations to create a public-private partnership (P3) selecting a team of private partners including Duke Energy Renewables and Schneider Electric to provide a turn-key solution where they capitalize, own and operate the system. The County purchases the electricity generated for 25 years, without paying significant upfront costs for the system.

The PSHQ microgrid incorporates canopy-mounted solar, providing shade to cars while powering the facility. The facility benefits from Maryland’s beneficial policies that provide a monetary value to clean energy credits and aggregate net metering that easily allows the County to move excess solar generation to other facilities in its portfolio and receive a retail rate credit. A new CHP system and absorption chiller provide heating and cooling to the facility. The County installed electric vehicle charging in concert with the solar panels to support its fleet, employees, and visitors. The microgrid at PSHQ with solar and CHP generation generates over 90 percent of the electricity used by the building on site.

The microgrid at PSHQ is the first project in Maryland and the first facility of its kind to achieve certification under the Green Business Certification Inc.‘s (GBCI) Performance Excellence in Energy Renewal (PEER) rating system – the power system corollary to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system, also administered by GBCI.

The MCCF microgrid expands the facility’s power generation capabilities by adding a CHP system to its existing generators. The CHP system, combined with on-site solar energy capacity installed under another initiative enables MCCF to generate over 90 percent of its electricity on-site. Collectively the two systems will generate most of the energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 6,800 metric tons annually. Both systems incorporate advanced cybersecurity protocols to protect the systems from internal and external threats.

Montgomery County is currently evaluating options to upscale microgrids to a campus or community scale and downscale to other facilities that provide key services to the community.

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