News & Announcements

New Grant Will Fund Microgrid Planning Study

Cleveland Foundation to fund CSU, CWRU, County and City collaboration


America is changing its energy delivery systems to become cleaner and more secure, and Cleveland State University will be leading a Cleveland Foundation-funded study to look at how the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County might benefit from this shift. The focus of the initiative will be to examine how microgrids might enable economic development in downtown Cleveland.

“The Cleveland Foundation has been a leader in bringing partners together to think differently around energy and how to use our assets and local talent to innovate solutions,” said Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “This is another example of collaboration with local partners to advance clean energy as a tool for economic growth and development. Given that no other community has done this to date, this study will help to tease out the possibilities, interest levels, possible costs and impact for our community.”

This effort is timely, according to Andrew Thomas who administers the Energy Policy Center for CSU’s Levin College of Urban Affairs, because microgrids will play an increasingly important role in smart city planning.

“Society is moving away from the traditional 20th century command and control electricity generation and delivery system toward a new model that uses distributed generation, clean energy and smart grids focused around specific communities and their energy needs,” says Thomas, who will serve as the project leader for the study. “Cleveland, Ohio is positioned to leverage microgrid technology into business growth because of its access to cost-competitive natural gas, the existence of district energy systems and the anticipated large-scale development of offshore wind resources. Armond Budish, county executive of Cuyahoga County, encouraged us to start this planning study as he saw a need for forward thinking on grid resiliency and its economic development benefit.”

"We think the next, great work in resiliency for local governments will be around electric, heating, cooling and cyber-secure microgrids that can be protected from severe weather, aging infrastructure problems and intentional and malicious acts of others,” adds Budish. “This grant will help us put together a lot of smart people locally who can help our region drive these developments."

“I believe microgrids may provide the potential to be a sustainable solution to help Cleveland meet some key goals in the Climate Action Plan,” notes Frank G. Jackson, mayor of Cleveland.

“The City of Cleveland is interested in energy solutions that improve the resiliency of our grid, use cleaner sources of energy, and provide price stability,” adds Matt Gray, chief of sustainability for the city. 

The Energy Policy Center and Case Western Reserve University’s Great Lakes Energy Institute will collaborate on the project, supported by system engineers from the International Council on Systems Engineering, along with Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland and Cleveland-based district energy utilities. The study will seek to understand the likely cost of development, the resulting costs for ratepayers, and the likely interest in participation by businesses, non-profit institutions and residents. While the study will evaluate the potential for microgrid development in Downtown Cleveland, it will also consider other places in Cleveland that have district utilities, such as University Circle.

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.

"Microgrids are an essential ingredient for a smart and connected city,” adds Alexis Abramson, director of the Great Lakes Energy Institute and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at CWRU. “They enable a robust, optimized, secure and resilient infrastructure, and Cleveland is well-positioned to integrate microgrids into our urban environment."