Microgrids are just one of the technologies that are disrupting the current utility business, with their potential to take whole developments such as universities, business parks or gated communities off grid. [Engerati-Business Parks Off-Grid Trend - A Utility Disruption]
However, they also have a very practical utility application, as for example is being focused on in New York and Vermont, in serving to isolate facilities or neighbourhoods in time of extreme weather events. [Engerati-Community Microgrids Coming To New York and Microgrids Are Coming To Vermont]
Pilot microgrids in Maryland
Now the latest state in the US northeast to look to microgrids to build resiliency into the grid is Maryland, with a proposal from Baltimore Gas and Electric to pilot two microgrids – one at Edmondson Village in Baltimore City and the other at the Kings Contrivance Village Center in Howard County.
Both areas meet criteria conducive to the tests, including supporting a mix of community services beneficial to the public, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, clinics, gas stations and public buildings that could potentially be used for emergency coordination and shelters during a regional event affecting the power grid.
“Microgrids are designed to strengthen the reliability and resiliency of the electric grid and provide geographic locations that can maintain power and provide vital community services to our customers when a region in our service territory experiences widespread outages,” said Rob Biagiotti, vice president and chief customer officer, BGE. “We look forward to using the pilot to better understand how microgrids can enhance the electric system serving our customers in the future.”
BGE’s proposed pilot builds on a 2014 report from the Maryland Energy Administration’s Microgrids Task Force, which concluded in part that microgrids are in the public interest and recommended a focus on the deployment of utility-owned public purpose microgrids.
Microgrid cost recovery
In addition to the community mix, the initial pilot locations were selected as areas that will realize electric service reliability improvements from the upgrades to the existing electric system that would be necessary as part of developing the microgrid.
BGE’s proposal which has been filed with the PSC, includes a plan to recover the costs of developing and operating the microgrids, with a monthly charge for electric customers. The charge is estimated to be approximately $0.04 per month for the average residential electric customer in the first year.
Based upon the results of the pilot programme, BGE expects to explore potential future installations throughout the central Maryland service area where microgrids may add value to the surrounding communities.