eLab Accelerator 2014

Arizona State University Microgrid

Project Objective

Create a business plan and technical design criteria for a potential ASU microgrid

Project Team Members

Tony Colonnese, Director of Engineering Services, Ameresco
Jean Humphries, Director of Capital Programs Management, Arizona State University
Daniel Hunter, Account Executive, Ameresco
Dr. Nathan Johnson, Assistant Professor College of Technology & Innovation, Arizona State University
John Riley, Associate Vice President for University Business Services, Arizona State University
Howard Wolchansky P.E., Electrical Engineer, Arizona State University

Project Description

Arizona State University (ASU) has a goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2025 (2035 with transportation). The goals of the microgrid project are to: Improve grid reliability, redundancy, resiliency and flexibility; Gain experience designing and operating a microgrid; Discover the associated capital and O&M requirements and implications for asset management; Learn how microgrid operations can reduce carbon production; Reduce energy costs; Promote renewable energy use; Offer a unique demonstration project that will benefit research and education for faculty, students, and the community. At eLab Accelerator, key parties to the microgrid project will explore the feasibility, implications and impacts of taking the university completely off the grid during normal operations or in the event of a grid outage. The group will also investigate the potential for capacity displacement and firm energy supply that a microgrid can provide to the grid, including the necessary utility business models to enable these services. Further, participants expect to collaboratively learn about future business models for investor-owned utilities, universities, and energy service companies.

Progress Made to Date (pre-Accelerator)

ASU has developed a Carbon Neutrality Action Plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2025, and carbon neutrality in transportation by 2035. The University is working with Ameresco and others to develop an implementation strategy to reach these carbon neutrality goals. The University is actively studying its building energy use, and implementing energy conservation and renewable energy projects across all campuses.

Post-Accelerator Outcomes

Following Accelerator, the intentions of the potential microgrid project were revised to be more in line with the university’s carbon neutrality goals. In addition, the team expanded their thinking, realizing that they needed to tackle larger problems associated with Arizona’s utility regulations and outdated business models, which they believe undervalue customer-owned renewable generation. To pursue this, the team drafted a value proposition to partner with the Arizona Commerce Commission and Arizona utilities to redefine the regulatory framework and utility business models in the state. The ASU team has shared the concept of working with the ACC and utilities with the university President and CFO, are pursuing forming a benefits corporation to assist with future solar projects, and have begun to identify other large utility customers with similar renewable goals to partner with on this effort.