Microgrid Power Plants Powered by Natural Gas Spreading

delaware riverkeeper - Jim Willis reports

Jim Willis
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)


Microgrid power plants powered by natural gas are the new and upcoming thing. They’re even coming to Philadelphia, home of the William Penn Foundation.

We’re starting to see more and more news about natural gas-fired microgrids, used for “peaking”. Microgrids are small electric generating plants, most often powered by natural gas. They usually produce a few megawatts of electricity. The concept of “peaking” means that during times of high electricity demand, these small microgrids kick on and produce electricity to help meet the demand. Although New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t want fracking in the Empire State, he’s in the midst of paying for 11 microgrids throughout the state—all of them using natural gas, mostly fracked gas from Pennsylvania). The wave doesn’t end there, though.


Philadephia Naval Yard Master Plan

These microgrids are an important new market for Marcellus/Utica Shale gas. So we perked up when we spotted a story about and press release from Ameresco, headquartered in Massachusetts, that is building a new 6-megawatt microgrid for peaking electricity at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. It will, according to Ameresco, “anchor one of the largest private microgrids in the United States.”

Although the announcement doesn’t say, we’re 99.99% sure the gas that will feed it will come from Pennsylvania’’s Marcellus Shale. In addition to the microgrid in Philly, Ameresco also announced a contract in Northeast Pennsylvania, with Luzerne Community College (Wilkes-Barre) to replace 21 outdated electric-resistance heating Roof Top Units (RTU), Heating and Ventilation Units (H&V), and Air Handling Units (AHU) with 21 new, natural gas-fired RTU’s and AHU’s. Yep, you read that right; they’re dumping electric units for natgas units. How “cool” is that? (Pun intended).

The announcement from Ameresco about the Philadelphia Navy Yard microgrid:

Ameresco, Inc., (NYSE:AMRC), a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy company, today announced that the project with PIDC, Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation and master developer of the Navy Yard, is underway. Ameresco broke ground on this innovative project that includes a comprehensive design, engineering, building, and long-term operation and maintenance of the new six megawatt (MW) natural-gas fired peaking plant that will anchor one of the largest private microgrids in the United States located at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.

“This new on-site generation facility will help support the energy demand for the 1,200-acre campus as businesses continue to locate here and grow, while remaining in line with the Navy Yard’s commitment to smart energy initiatives and sustainability,” said Prema Gupta, Senior Vice President, Navy Yard Planning, Development, and Operations at PIDC. “Ameresco is not only designing and developing a project that addresses the Navy Yard’s energy growth needs, reliability requirements, and cost targets, but one that can also provide back-up and resiliency support as required.”

Once operational, the multi-million-dollar peaking plant is anticipated to run during the Navy Yard’s peak demand periods and during intervals of high-cost energy and capacity from the grid. By generating power during peak times, the project will allow PIDC to reliably meet the projected demand growth needs of the Navy Yard and its tenants. The plant will allow PIDC to participate in the PJM Ancillary Service Market and generate revenues to help offset the cost of the increased capacity.

“Ameresco is extremely proud of our partnership with PIDC and we’re excited to move this critical infrastructure project underway,” said Michael T. Bakas, Senior Vice President, Ameresco. “As a key component of the Navy Yard’s leading-edge microgrid, the plant will be capable of providing certain resiliency services and critical support in the event of extended grid outages in addition to shaving the peak load requirements of the microgrid. This role for Ameresco leverages its depth of experience at developing and operating comprehensive, distributed energy systems integrated into microgrids that serve mission critical facilities for resiliency and cost control purposes.”

The project is expected to be operational in late 2017. Once complete, we anticipate holding a public ribbon-cutting celebration at the Navy Yard site before year-end…

A bit more color on the Navy Yard microgrid contract, and how much it will cost, from the Worcester (MA) Business Journal:

The microgrid project will be part of the Navy Yard development in Philadelphia, a 1,200-acre business campus on a former U.S. Navy complex. Ameresco announced the start of construction on the project Friday, and said it is expected to be operational by later this year.

The microgrid, previously reported to cost about $11 million, will include a 6-megawatt natural gas-powered power plant. Ameresco is designing, building and maintaining the system.

Just two days ago Ameresco announced a new $8 million contract to replace 21 electric heating and air conditioning units with newer, more efficient natural gas versions on the campus of Luzerne Community College in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Another new market for Marcellus Shale gas!

Ameresco, Inc. (NYSE:AMRC), a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy company, today announced that Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) has contracted with Ameresco to renew and upgrade LCCC’s campus energy infrastructure and to institute energy efficiency measures at the College. The nearly $8 million Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) Energy Performance Contract (EPC) project is expected to save the College more than $576,000 annually in energy costs and operation and maintenance (O&M) savings for the next 15 years. In addition, the College will earn $122,757 in energy rebates and incentives as a result of implementing these measures under the GESA project.

“The GESA project provides an excellent mechanism for us to upgrade our energy infrastructure while also addressing critical capital improvement needs without any capital costs,” says Thomas P. Leary, president, LCCC. “We are pleased to partner with Ameresco on this project which will enhance our facilities on campus while at the same time help the environment and provide a cost savings to the College.”

“Ameresco is excited to partner with LCCC to develop and implement a customized GESA solution to address the College’s efficiency requirements and to upgrade its energy infrastructure,” stated David J. Anderson, Executive Vice President, Ameresco. “Employing a GESA project is financially responsible, it’s budget-neutral, enhances comfort, and prudently supports the College’s energy and sustainability strategy. Once complete, this energy program will significantly reduce the College’s energy demands and costs campus-wide.”

The project includes energy efficiency and infrastructure upgrades to 17 campus buildings and over 474,900 square feet of space, and consists of 16 Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) that will prove entirely self-funded within the 15-year repayment term. Ameresco services include project development engineering, GESA project modeling, ECM detailed design and engineering, project construction management, equipment and systems start-up and commissioning, post-construction monitoring, energy rebate application management, energy savings measurement and verification (short-term), and training of LCCC staff on all installed equipment and systems.

Some key capital improvements include the replacement of 21 outdated electric-resistance heating Roof Top Units (RTU), Heating and Ventilation Units (H&V), and Air Handling Units (AHU) with 21 new, natural gas fired RTU’s and AHU’s. This ECM included an energy/fuel conversion from electric heat to new more energy efficient natural gas supply and natural gas fired equipment and technology. Other improvements for LCCC include campus-wide LED lighting upgrades (interior, exterior and parking lot) and controls, a new chiller, HVAC control re-commissioning and upgrades, Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) installations, new energy efficient transformers, building infiltration reductions, water conservation measures, and new premium efficiency motor installations.

The GESA energy efficiency project is expected to reduce energy use by 4,571,800 kWh annually, and save LCCC more than $11,000,000 over the 15-year repayment term. It will also help to reduce the College’s greenhouse gas and carbon emissions by approximately 41,000 pounds. Work for the project will begin this fall.

Editor’s Note: The exciting thing about the Philadelphia Navy Yard project is that it’s right in the belly of the beast and by that I mean the home of the William Penn Foundation, funder of the Delaware Riverkeeper, the Clean Air Council and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. All three organizations are unalterably opposed to all natural gas development and the pipelines to bring it to the Philadelphia area, even though we know the Riverkeeper/Povertykeeper operates out of natural gas heated space in nearby Bristol, Pennsylvania.

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