An unusual, groundbreaking solar plus energy-storage microgrid project in Rutland, Vt., was recently announced. The Stafford Hill Solar Farm is being developed by Green Mountain Power in collaboration with Dynapower and GroSolar. This unique federal-state-nongovernmental organization partnership involves the state of Vermont; the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Electricity; and the Energy Storage Technology Advancement Partnership, while Sandia National Laboratories are funding the energy-storage component of the project.
Microgrids, such as Stafford Hill, are modern, small-scale versions of the centralized electricity system. They are designed to achieve specific local goals, such as reliability, carbon emission reduction, the wider distribution and diversification of energy sources, and cost reductions.
“This project is a national model for the future of clean energy, combining solar with energy storage,” said Lewis Milford, president of Clean Energy Group, which manages the Clean Energy States Alliance. “Solar power and battery storage will provide clean, reliable power to a school that serves as an emergency shelter, helping a community cope with loss of power in a future disaster. This new form of resilient power is what all communities need to protect themselves from power outages in severe weather events.”
Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager at the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, said the project will benefit the grid at other times as well.
“The technical innovations will reduce cost and make the project commercially viable,” he said.
The Rutland project is one of the first exclusively solar-powered microgrids in the United States, the first to provide full backup to an emergency shelter on the distribution network, and the first solar-plus-storage microgrid to be developed on a brownfield site.
It incorporates 7,722 solar panels, capable of generating 2.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity with 4 MW of battery storage, using both lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries to integrate the solar generation into the local grid, and provide backup power in case of an outage.
The solar-power system will employ multiport inverters designed specifically for the project by Dynapower, a local Vermont firm.
This project puts Rutland and Vermont in the forefront of the movement toward microgrids, energy storage and smart-grid modernization. Solar-plus- storage and microgrid technologies are poised to revolutionize resilient power, bringing clean, locally generated power to communities similar to Rutland all over the world.
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Mike Breslin is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He has 30-years experience writing for newspapers, magazines, multimedia and video production companies with concentration on business, energy, environmental and technical subjects. Mike is author of the sea adventure novels Found At Sea, Mystery of the Fjord Tide and Riddle of the Atlantis Moon. His short stories are posted on AmazonShorts.com.