Ron Chebra 2016-09-20 13:24:21
Many commercial and industrial entities are considering, investigating, or implementing microgrid solutions. The underlying rationale often involves complex business, operational, and economic issues. In early 2016, Schneider Electric USA made the commitment to implement a state-of-the-art microgrid at its US headquarters, Boston One Campus (BOC), located in North Andover, MA. A number of key factors, including increasing resiliency, reliability, and sustainability, drove the decision. Schneider Electric believes in staying at the forefront of innovation and developing business opportunities in commercial microgrids, by “walking the walk” as an end-user. Microgrid Defined The Department of Energy (DOE) defines a microgrid as “a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island-mode.” Key microgrid characteristics include (Figure 1): Group of interconnected loads – energy consuming facilities that are electrically interconnected. These may be a single building, a cluster of buildings arranged in a campus environment, (such as a municipal, university, shopping center, or hospital), or an industrial or commercial complex such as an office park. Group of distributed energy resources – sources of localized energy assets that share the same electrical infrastructure as the loads. These generation capabilities are often disbursed and can include assets such as, solar panels, battery storage, combined heat and power (CHP) facilities, wind, geothermal, fuel cells, microturbines, and fossil fuel-driven generation sets. Clearly defined boundaries that act as a single controllable entity with regard to the grid – this is how the combined load and resource are tied to the grid. This may be a set of transformers, a feeder, or even a substation. For this discussion, we will narrow the view to where there is a single point of common coupling (PCC), whereby the interconnected loads and sources can be switched or isolated from the grid. Operating in either grid-connected or island mode – this is when the entity can have the electric supply grid provide some or all of the energy supply need to support the load (grid-connected), or where the entity can act in an autonomous, non-connected condition (islanded) where only the locally produced supply is used to meet all or part of the energy needs of the entity. There are challenges when operating a microgrid in grid-connected and islanded mode. In grid-connected mode, there is need to optimize and manage the balance of supply and demand within the entity, and efficiently and economically leverage the microgrids internal resources. For example, if an entity has energy storage assets, some choices include potentially using this resource as an energy source to avoid a peak demand charge instead of lowering the coincident energy demand through load management and orchestration. Factors that influence this decision would take into consideration technical factors, such as battery discharge characteristics and the number of lifetime discharge cycles, versus the ability to effectively coordinate key load influencing elements and their scheduled start and duration times. For the same set of asset performance operations, one must also consider the economic perspective, which includes utility demand charges, impacts on asset optimization, and facility production and performance. External factors also play an important role in this ecosystem, especially considering the impact of weather on demand (such as facility heating and cooling) and renewable supply (solar or wind resources). In islanded mode, the decisions about how to effectively operate autonomously are more significant. Self-sufficiency requires tighter control of the supply sources and demand requirements. By being isolated from the elasticity and load-following capabilities of most utility grids, the microgrid must now consider more active and dynamic control of both the supply and the demand. Many microgrid configurations do not anticipate providing the same level of equivalent supply as the grid, so levels of load management and reduction must be implemented. Schneider Electrics’ Boston One Campus Microgrid Boston One Campus is Schneider Electric’s global Research and Development Center and its North American headquarters. It operates in collaboration with four other global R&D centers in Bangalore, Shanghai, Grenoble, and Monterrey. Schneider moved into the building in 2014. The facility is approximately 240,000 square feet, across two buildings, and home to more than 750 employees from multiple business lines (Figure 2). Approximately 40kW of solar will be installed on the rooftop (Figure 3). The second phase of the installation includes approximately 400kW of solar carports (Figure 4). A subsequent phase of the project will include the installation of Schneider Electric’s new EcoBlade, an intelligent energy storage system (Figure 5). This advanced system will provide 500kW of capacity and 1MWhr of energy. During the early phases of the deployment, an existing natural gas-fired 400kW genset that supplies backup power support to the BOC data center will be connected to the microgrid configuration. A unique feature of the microgrid being deployed at BOC will be the living laboratory test environment that enables continued research, development, and evaluation of new products, software, and control logic without impacting the performance and operation of the facility. The approach will include the capability of performing hardware in the loop (HIL) testing. Another capability incorporated into this live working microgrid is a demonstration center that will allow BOC employees and visitors to experience the value of microgrid solutions through interactive displays, real-time monitoring of the microgrid performance, and grid-connected facility optimization. The brains of the microgrid controller will be the Schneider Electric Modicon M580 controller. This sophisticated microprocessor-based orchestration tool will be used to monitor key assets and inputs, execute defined modes of operation, and dispatch command and control signals to the interconnected supply and demand elements. In order to provide a high level of control sophistication within the main electrical room, various enhancements will be made to the building’s electrical distribution network. Currently, the electrical configuration within the facility is supplied by two main feeds from the local energy distribution company, National Grid. This dual arrangement is complemented by a load distribution frame that allows the entire facility to be operated from either source (Figure 6). The addition of the new assets (solar panels, genset, and battery storage) will be complemented by remotely controllable breakers as well as the microgrid controller in order to orchestrate operation under grid-connected and islanded mode (Figure 7). Under normal grid-connected mode, StruxureWare Demand Side Operation (DSO), a software as a service (SAAS) platform will be operating to harmonize the ecosystem using both external inputs and internal information as well. Some of these external factors would include: • Site-Specific Operational Constraints; • Weather Forecasts; • Market Pricing; • Demand Response Signals; • Tariff-based decisions (e.g. time of day, time of use, peak demand Charges); • Effective use of self-production from the solar system being installed; • And balancing load characteristics using building latency and envelope information (Figure 8). This system will enable the facility to operate autonomously to maximize the asset use and execute strategies that optimize energy savings during periods of low energy cost from the grid supplier, normal power connection periods, peak consumption times, and low off-peak times. Some of the actions that may be executed based on these factors might include: During low energy cost or non-occupied periods: • Pre-cooling or pre-heating the building; • Charging the battery storage system. During peak energy times: • Maximizing solar production; • Lowering building temperature during high peak times; • Discharging the battery to avoid peak charges from the utility supplier; • Executing other energy conservation measures such as lighting reduction. A screen shot of some of these conditions is shown in Figure 9. Implementation Plans Rooftop solar will be the first asset installed. Additionally, electrical system upgrades, such as adding motorized breakers to the existing distribution system, will be done in anticipation of subsequent stages. Once the rooftop solar, the connection of the existing genset to the main electrical room, and the microgrid controller are installed, the essence of the microgrid will be in place. However, since the available local assets will be insufficient to supply the entire campus, only mission-critical loads will be connected during an islanding event, such as a loss of primary power from the distribution provider. As more assets are brought online (solar carport and battery storage), additional loads can be supported during islanded mode. In parallel with the microgrid islanded mode build-out, the DSO system will be installed. This will take place in stages and dovetail with the local supply asset build-out. The anticipated full-scale implementation of the BOC microgrid is expected to be operational in early 2017. Schneider Electric’s Rationale for Building a Microgrid at its Headquarters Resilience One of the primary reasons for making its headquarters a microgrid has roots in the recent history of intermittent electrical outages. During the period of July 2014 through June 2015, the site experienced working and non-working hour outages totaling nearly 20 hours. One of these episodes occurred in 2014 and lasted the entire business day. Since safety is paramount, employees were dismissed from work. The back-up genset was able to sustain operation for much of Schneider’s critical operations. The distribution company took necessary corrective actions. Schneider Electric also implemented an automatic transfer scheme, which enabled the facility to operate from either of the two main feeds. Both of these actions have since mitigated the risks of future issues. Though there have been no significant or long-duration interruptions since then, for improved business continuity, Schneider Electric decided to install and operate its own microgrid. Reliability Many operations at the facility are critical. Life testing, environmental testing, and customer support are essential to maintain the company’s reputation for products and services. Renewables Schneider also made a global commitment to sustainability, by reducing its energy use by 10% and leveraging sustainable resources wherever practical and possible. The addition of solar generation at BOC will be a test-bed for future Schneider facilities worldwide. Additionally, as solar carports are installed, electric vehicle charging stations will be added to help promote employee use of these energy savings toward reaching the company’s 10% CO2 transportation reduction goal. Reference Design Schneider believes microgrids are a long-term strategy that will be adopted across many industries, companies, and enterprises. By being a customer of its own products and services, Schneider can help users understand, plan, and execute microgrid programs with first-hand knowledge gained in a real-world environment. Conclusion The Schneider Electric BOC Microgrid will be a living laboratory of a working microgrid available for demonstrations, tours, and other educational forums for end-users, utilities, and regulatory entities seeking to better understand how these ecosystems can be used to meet the growing need for resiliency, reliability, and renewable use. BE Ron Chebra is a principal and founding member of Schneider Electric’s Grid Utility Consulting Business Unit.
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