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CSU Reports Highlight Benefits of Microgrid

Project will bring more reliable power and jobs to region

MicrogridTwo new reports by a team led by Cleveland State University highlight the energy and economic benefits that would be generated from the development of a downtown microgrid for the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. The findings indicate that the technology could be designed to be operational 99.999 percent of time, greatly increasing reliability and enhancing the use of clean power. In addition, an economic impact analysis conducted as part of the study predicts the project could generate over 2,000 additional jobs for the region with annual earnings of nearly $162 million.

The reports were generated as part of a planning study funded by the Cleveland Foundation to investigate the viability of microgrid technology for the region. The study is being conducted by CSU’s Energy Policy Center in partnership with Case Western Reserve University’s Great Lakes Energy Institute, Cuyahoga County, and the City of Cleveland.

“A typical electric grid is ‘up’ 99.5 percent of the time,” notes Andrew Thomas, Director of the Energy Policy Center housed in CSU’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs. “By relying upon local generation, electricity storage and smart control systems, a microgrid can be designed to function 99.999 percent of the time, virtually eliminating interruptions. In addition, such a system provides better power quality and is less vulnerable to cyber-attacks.” 

The study team also argues that the microgrid can supply power at rates that would be competitive with existing commercial rates in Downtown Cleveland. This could be accomplished by using existing assets in downtown Cleveland, including those belonging to Cleveland Public Power and Cleveland Thermal. This in turn is likely to attract businesses that need reliable power, such as those that rely heavily on data.

A microgrid is a contained energy system capable of balancing captive supply and demand resources to maintain reliability. It is defined by its function and not its size, and could include one building connected to a solar array or hundreds of buildings connected to numerous energy generation sources. The technology can incorporate multiple distributed energy generation technologies to address changing weather conditions and to meet fluctuating demand, making it more efficient and flexible than traditional systems.

Thomas and other members of the study team will present the findings at the 2018 Energy Tech Conference sponsored by NASA and held October 22-26 at the IX Center in Cleveland. Moving forward the team hopes to work with local government entities and private industry to investigate next steps on transforming the planning study into an execution plan for site development and construction.

“I am very interested in exploring how a microgrid could make a difference here in Cuyahoga County,” says Armond Budish, Cuyahoga County Executive. “We’ve seen the problems in the past few years of large electric grids going down and customers losing power for days and months. A microgrid district like the one being envisioned with clean, affordable and reliable power could be a great economic development attractor for us. From the County’s perspective, we want to help make this a reality.”