How DG and microgrids change the game for utilities.
At its White Oak headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t worry about power outages. That’s because the FDA’s sprawling campus near Washington, D.C., is home to one of the most sophisticated microgrids on the East Coast.
The system is connected to PEPCO’s grid. But with 21 MW of onsite generating capacity, and with solar arrays, thermal storage, and load management systems installed by Honeywell, the White Oak microgrid is capable of isolating itself from PEPCO and running in island mode almost indefinitely—depending on a steady supply of fuel and sunshine, of course. And White Oak has done exactly that several times in recent years, including during and after Superstorm Sandy last fall. While neighboring buildings were in the dark, White Oak kept the lights on.
The U.S. General Services Administration financed the $71 million microgrid project—a tidy sum for a 21-MW system. But Honeywell says it will save the FDA about $11 million a year in energy and O&M costs. That means in less than 10 years, the federal government should start seeing payback from its investment—or sooner if the region gets hit by more storms like Sandy.