Maryland Gets One of US’s First Solar Microgrids

Konterra solar array

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff were on hand in Maryland yesterday to commission one of the first solar-powered micro-grids in the U.S. It’s also the first micro-grid in the U.S. with energy storage capability.

Micro-grids are much like larger electric grids and able to meet the energy needs of residents and businesses.  Unlike larger grids, however, a mirco-grid can be connected to the larger grid or disconnected to operate, even if the larger electric grid is down.  In the case of the new microgrid in Maryland, it can keep 50 kilowatts of power online for four hours if the grid goes out.

This new microgrid is powered by a 402 kilowatt PV canopy array at Konterra headquarters in Laurel, Md. Konterra is a 2,000-acre mixed-use development. The micro-grid will provide about 20 percent of Konterra’s annual energy use, according to Standard Solar. It will also power two electric vehicle charging stations, as well as LED parking lot lighting.
“We invested in this project through our MEA Grant Changer Program because in Maryland, we know that if we want better results, we have to make better choices. Better choices like making solar energy a priority,” Gov O’Malley said. “Since 2007, we’ve multiplied by 1,500 the amount of solar power on the state’s grid. In the process, we’ve created 2,000 new jobs. These are modern, innovative investments that lead to jobs and a greener economy.”
Both the energy storage capacity and ability to run without the larger grid are important because it means that the micro-grid can still operate locally without the larger grid.

“Energy storage not only provides substantial value to the electric grid, it makes the integration of solar PV and other distributed generation systems reliable, efficient and cost-effective as well,” stated FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. “Distributed storage is an important piece of the puzzle as we deploy new resources to generate energy."

"For years the solar industry has recognized that widespread implementation of grid-connected energy storage systems would be key to solar PV becoming a mainstream energy source," added Standard Solar's CEO, Tony Clifford. "Today, we dedicate one such system, marking a huge step for solar micro-grids and the industry overall."

“This solar energy storage project is a milestone in the evolution of energy generation. It is the beginning of what will be a smarter, more resilient grid as more renewables with storage are deployed,” concluded Tom Leyden, CEO of Solar Grid Storage.