Project of the Year Runner-up: Watershed Sustainability Center

Watershed-Sustainability

Rockville, Md. | 11 kW

This runner-up in the rooftop category really can’t be pinned down by one label. Sure, it is a cool looking building with a nice rooftop and storage system, but that’s just one facet of a project meant to promote total sustainability.

chart 2In the summer of 2014, Standard Solar, a leading solar energy company, partnered with Pepco, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings that delivers electric service to more than 815,000 customers throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, to develop an innovative behind-the-meter solar microgrid demonstration project at the WaterShed Sustainability Center in Rockville, Md. The solar microgrid project was developed in a public setting designed to highlight the system’s capabilities, which was an important factor in its creation.

The project is a beacon — a teaching tool. Basically, Pepco wanted the WaterShed Sustainability Center to showcase environmental initiatives to help educate the public about all of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly practices at their disposal — like how the house captures most of the rain water on the site. The project is meant to be a living classroom and laboratory for sustainable energy and water practices complete with hands-on, interactive displays that educate visitors with energy-saving ideas they can apply in their own homes. Pepco encourages individuals and school groups to visit and tour the center.

“The first step toward transforming the energy grid comes with education, and Standard Solar is proud to partner with Pepco in support of this goal,” says Alyssa Kagel, manager, market development and Policy for Standard Solar.

Watershed-Sustainability-3In addition to the solar install, the center has:

• Native-plant landscaping
• Constructed wetlands
• Edible green walls
• Smart thermostats
• High-efficiency HVAC systems
• Electric vehicle charging port

The Microgrid

The combination of integrated technology and behind-the-meter capabilities made for a unique outcome, and the benefits of this demonstration project are significant. The project not only provides power backup, but also supports grid integrity and allows for participation in ancillary markets for electricity. It promotes operational efficiency while enhancing power quality and system reliability.

Incorporating grid-integrated storage with solar PV has the potential to reduce overall PV project costs and offers new benefits to hosts, including backup power, demand reduction and peak shaving. The system can seamlessly charge and discharge from the grid, islanding itself as needed to complement the electricity grid and improve load balancing. With the help of an intelligent load control system, the microgrid can increase its autonomy in a grid outage situation.

The system is dynamic in that it can be configured to perform multiple functions, manually or on-demand with customer programing. The system includes off-the-grid components that must be configured using custom system designs and controls, and it relies on efficient solar batteries that are smaller and higher density than average.

Although behind-the-meter solar microgrid systems represent a small percentage of total energy storage deployments, Standard Solar believes their commercial potential is enormous.

“As increasing strains are placed on the utility grid, the value of and need for dynamic, grid-interactive systems will continue to increase,” Kagel says.

According to GTM Research, behind-the-meter deployments accounted for just 10 percent of 2014 energy storage installations. These systems are expected to grow significantly over the next few years, reaching 45 percent of the total market by 2019. As more solar microgrids come online, they have the capacity to transform the energy grid. Standard Solar recognizes the importance of these systems and is committed to continuing its leadership role in their development.