Connecticut University Uses Microgrid to Cut Operating Costs

The University of Bridgeport successfully installed a megawatt-class fuel cell microgrid on the school’s property.

The 1.4 megawatt fuel cell power plant makes the university grid independent. The micro-grid was tested by temporarily disconnecting the University from the electric grid with the fuel cell power plant shifting to a grid-independent operating mode and powering the school’s critical infrastructure, reverting back to grid interconnected status at the end of the test.

The grid supplies ultra-clean power to the electric grid under normal operation and then automatically switches to a grid-independent mode in the event of a grid disturbance, supplying critical university facilities with continuous power.

The school contracted with FuelCell Energy, Inc. for implementation of the grid.

“This is a win-win for all,” said UB President Neil A. Salonen. “The much-anticipated installation of the fuel cell on campus is cutting our energy costs, uses clean and efficient fuel cells that protect our students and the environment, and as a designated community shelter, provides critical energy to all.”

University of Bridgeport entered into a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA), purchasing power from the fuel cell installation as it is generated. The agreement’s competitive pricing drove down operating costs to generate an estimated $300,000 in savings annually for the university without any capital investment.

According to Transparency Market Research, the global microgrid market is expected to rise at a whopping 20.70% CAGR from 2014 to 2020 for the market’s valuation to increase from $9.8 billion in 2013 to $35.1 billion by 2020.

Key applications of microgrids include community/utility, defense/military, campus/institutions, commercial/industrial, and remote islands. Amongst these, the segment of campus/institutions is expected to lead the microgrid market over the forthcoming years. Government initiatives for promoting renewable energy sources for energy production is one of the major factors fueling the growth of this segment. North America is expected to be the key region driving growth of defense and military segment. However, remote islands is expected to display the leading growth rate in the future.

Other schools are also adopting microgrid use. Earlier this year, the University of Missouri announced it has reduced its coal consumption by 73% through the use of a sophisticated microgrid.

Connecticut, however, has become known as the “microgrid state” due to its heavy investment toward and commitment to alternative power sources. In 2016, the town of Hartord announced it will use a microgrid to mitigate costs and supply backup power for residential areas.

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