Coatesville Solar Initiative Serves As Microgrid

When the Coatesville Solar Farm goes live, it will, by regulation, become a microgrid for part of the Coatesville area.
Published: Mon 19 Jan 2015

The benefits of the Coatesville Solar Farm in Pennsylvania is not only illustrated in the production of total renewable energy for the Coatesville Area High School (CASH), it will also be demonstrated in a disaster, for example, such as the recent snowstorm in Buffalo, where power was cut off to municipalities, crippling critical services.

The CSI microgrid will be on call 365 days a year, and 24 hours a day, ready with the clean, renewable power the solar farm produces.

Sophisticated energy storage

With a microgrid in place, power (reserved in batteries which Axion will be providing) will be available for local use. The storage technology for this project is Axion’s PowerCube, which can be used for grid-level storage, behind the meter energy management, and off-grid energy storage. [Engerati – Axion Power Supplies Energy Storage To Pennsylvania’s Largest Solar Farm.]

Each PowerCube includes forty 12V Lead Carbon (PbC) batteries connected in series to produce 480V DC. Multiple strings are connected in parallel to provide the required current and power for a given application. The PowerCubes are scalable, providing as much capacity as needed. When the PbC batteries reach the end of their lifecycle, they are 99% recyclable.

The PowerCube includes sophisticated electronics, including an inverter, charge controller, battery monitoring system, and communications that allow it to send status information and be controlled remotely via the internet.

Lead-acid batteries often suffer from stratification and unequal cell voltages. Periodic “equalizing charging,” which charges the batteries with a voltage higher than the nominal value and brings each cell to a full state of charge, will alleviate that problem. Axion’s battery packs have a self-equalizing feature that equalizes the cells even at a partial state of charge.

Clean energy saving millions

In addition to serving as a microgrid, the Coatesville Solar Initiative (CSI) will provide 100% of the energy needs for the Coatesville Area Main Campus (CAMC) for the next 25 years. CAMC includes the High School, its athletic facility and outdoor lighting.

CSI will construct two 2.4MW farms producing approximately 6.3-plus million kWh of power covering 26 acres of the 48-acre parcel located adjacent to the school. It is estimated CASD by the year 2039 will have saved a total of US$3 million to US$6 million in energy costs.

CSI will also be providing the CASD with an electric vehicle and three electric vehicle charging stations to power it, to be used by staff or students that may want to bring their electric vehicle to work and or school.

In addition to this, included in the CSI package is LED lighting at the high school on main campus, as well as LED lighting on poles at Rainbow Elementary. Three solar-education kiosks will be developed, which can be moved between schools. These savings (in excess of US$365,000.00) are all "no cost benefits" to the school district.

An increasing number of public facilities such as universities, military and hospitals are turning their attention towards the microgrid and the savings and energy security that it offers. [Engerati – University Microgrid Manages Multiple Geneation Assets] and [Engerati – Microgrid at Italian University Generates Savings, Knowledge.]