Montgomery County’s second resiliency hub, powered by a renewable energy microgrid, was unveiled Tuesday at the county animal shelter and adoption center located at 7315 Muncaster Mill Road in Derwood. Powered by solar panels and backup generators, the microgrid helps the shelter produce less greenhouse gas emissions and pushes the county closer to its climate goals of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and improving climate resiliency.
Although county officials held the ribbon-cutting event for the microgrid Tuesday, the grid was first installed in November.
David Dise, the director at the county’s Department of General Service, said the county wanted to wait to unveil the microgrid until June to monitor the project and demonstrate that it worked. Just 10 days after installation the microgrid went through its first test when a plane flew into Pepco power lines in the Gaithersburg area and cut off the power to over 120,000 county residents on Nov. 27.
For most in the area, the power was out, but the animal shelter did not go dark, Dise said.
“The resiliency hub marks another milestone in this journey,” County Executive Marc Elrich said at the ribbon cutting. Elrich described this project along with a handful of other completed microgrids in the county, as “really exciting” and an example of climate action and progress.
The county’s climate goals are 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2027 and 100% by 2035. According to county data, there has been a 30% reduction in GHG emissions between 2005 and 2020.
There are three other microgrids in the county, at the Brookeville Bus Depot, which powers the county’s electric bus fleet; the Public Safety Headquarters; and at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.
The county’s first resiliency hub is at the Bette Carol Thompson Scotland Neighborhood Recreation Center in Potomac. The hub is designed to provide safe haven for the historically Black community of Scotland with a rooftop solar system, battery storage, natural gas generator and LED lighting to keep the recreation center operational during electrical grid outages.
A resiliency hub is a facility designed to provide shelter and resources to a community during a hazardous weather event and typically generates and stores its own renewable energy on a microgrid.
At the animal shelter, the microgrid system consists of three solar paneled canopies covering the parking lot, on the roof and in the back of the building. Along with the photovoltaic solar panels, the microgrid uses diesel-run backup generators, which supplement the flow of energy into the building if there is not enough supply from the solar panels or utility outages.
The solar panels at the animal shelter can produce more than 500 kW of energy, which is the equivalent of powering over 80 homes, county officials said, and 35% of the animal shelter’s energy is supplied by solar energy.
GreenStruxure, a partnership of Schneider Electric based out of Boston, was commissioned by the county to construct the microgrid. GreenStruxure CEO Jose Lorenzo Lista said this was the first time they constructed a smaller-sized microgrid and for a local government. Typically, they construct grids for the commercial setting, which produce up to 4 MW of energy, Lista said.
Michael Yambrach, chief of the Office of Energy and Sustainability in the county’s Department of General Services, told MoCo360 that the county was looking around for other critical facilities that could benefit from a microgrid and thought the animal shelter was an important place to support, especially after natural disasters, so there would be a centralized and operational location to bring pets and animals.
“We learned with Sandy and Katrina and all the other hurricanes that devastated parts of the East Coast and the Gulf area that, you know, not only are people displaced, but usually the animals, the pets that they have are displaced,” Yambrach said.
In the future, there will be electric vehicle chargers on site, Yambrach said, and the county is applying for a federal grant to receive money to begin installing the chargers at county facilities.
“No one is going to electrify this place [the county] tomorrow. It is not happening overnight. … It’s going to happen over a period of years,” Elrich said. “And we have time to get there and projects like this show us how we get there, and that’s what is exciting about this.”
Elrich added that there is a possibility of microgrids being implemented in neighborhoods and small communities, but for now, county officials are focused on county facilities.