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The Lake News Online
  • Microgrid unveiled at Solar Village

  • A small-scale microgrid unveiled at Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Solar Village Thursday afternoon is a chance for researchers to analyze a new system of energy management.
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  • A small-scale microgrid unveiled at Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Solar Village Thursday afternoon is a chance for researchers to analyze a new system of energy management.
    A large crowd turned out for the event, which featured a ribbon cutting, brief remarks, tours of the four student-built solar houses and more.
    The microgrid, which will manage and store renewable energy among the four homes in the village located on 10th Street in Rolla, will serve as a research instrument for Missouri S&T professors and students with the goal of analyzing the abilities of small-scale microgrids.
    Students living in the four solar houses will monitor the results and demonstrate how people interact with a new system of energy management.
    Missouri S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader said the dedication ceremony for the microgrid was “a significant achievement for the Solar Village, a significant achievement for Missouri S&T and also for our community, our state and beyond.
    “This microgrid really will make it possible for these homes to eventually become self-sustaining and take the energy from the sun and from the fuel cells and power everyday life — whether that’s air conditioning on a day like today or recharging an electric vehicle,” the chancellor said.
    Hutcheson Ford had an electric vehicle on hand at the event for people to view and test drive.
    “On very, very sunny days we can actually give power back to the grid, and that’s exciting to think about,” Schrader said.
    “Our hope is this research and demonstration project can assist other communities in learning how they can create self-sustaining microgrids that continue to operate when the main utility grid is down or not accessible,” Schrader said.
    Tony Arnold, assistant director of the office of sustainable energy and environmental engagement (OSE3), told the Daily News that he hopes the microgrid at the Solar Village can be replicated at different scales, such as to a neighborhood.
    According to Arnold, there are few of these microgrids in the country, with many being in controlled labs.
    “This is unique in that it involves real tenants,” not simulations in a laboratory, Arnold said.
    Components necessary for the project included batteries for energy storage, a power electronic converter, software and hardware.
    Schrader, Arnold and Angela Rolufs, director of the office of sustainable energy and environmental engagement at Missouri S&T, all said the microgrid could not have been done without several partners.
    “You’re standing right now in what looks like four little houses but really it’s about three and a half years of work,” Arnold said. “It started with a little idea, and then we brought in some utility partners and some people who thought, ‘hey we can do this’....”
    Page 2 of 2 - Schrader said the accomplishment was not possible without partners such as Rolla Municipal Utilities (RMU), Ameren, City Utilities of Springfield, Microgrid Energy, Milbank, MEC Energy Solutions and the Army Corps of Engineers. Representatives from the various partners attended Thursday’s ceremony.
    In a news release issued before Thursday’s unveiling, Arnold said that power companies are interested to see if microgrids are the future for power distribution.
    Rodney Bourne, RMU general manager, said he was interested to learn from the research “how this will work in a real-world setting.” How residents might share energy costs, especially if one solar home produces or consumes more energy than another.
    Bourne said the microgrid at the Solar Village connects to the RMU grid, and the utility can monitor how much energy is going to the solar homes and how much energy is being put back into the RMU grid.
    ARC partnership
    In addition to the dedication of the microgrid, Schrader announced that the university signed a statement of purpose with the Alliance for Resilient Campuses (ARC), an initiative from Second Nature, a nonprofit corporation that works with universities to promote environmental sustainability.
    This partnership with ARC continues Missouri S&T’s commitment to become a more efficient and eco-friendly campus.
    Schrader said the partnership assists campuses and communities in resilience planning in the face of what might be extreme weather conditions of emergencies.
    “And the Solar Village and microgrid are excellent examples of how by working together and being proactive, we can become more resilient,” Schrader said.
    The homes at the Solar Village are all past entries into the Solar Decathlon design competition.
    Thursday’s event provided an opportunity for the public to ask Solar House Design Team members questions about living in the homes and learn about the team’s participation in the 2015 Solar Decathalon.
    A second Solar Village is being planned farther west on 10th Street between the football stadium and the Innovation Park as more solar homes are built for future competitions. “I’m hoping the name Solar Suburb sticks,” Schrader said with a smile.

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