Planning an Affordable, Resilient and Sustainable Grid in North Carolina

The NC Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) has partnered with New Hanover County (NHC) to conduct resiliency analyses of local facilities as part of the two-year project “Planning an Affordable, Resilient, and Sustainable Grid in North Carolina” (PARSG)

PARSG is a joint project by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production Infrastructure Center (EPIC) and NCCETC. It began in 2019 after North Carolina received a competitive award of $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The project also includes opportunities for interested stakeholders to review the metrics developed by the research team, led by EPIC, and provide input into an advanced grid scenario focused on grid hardening and enabling a more decentralized resilient grid, including micro/mini grids that can support critical services, such as hospitals and shelters, in the case of power outages. The third and last stakeholder meeting will be held later this year.

At the second stakeholder meeting for the PARSG project, Beth Schrader from NHC’s Office of Recovery and Resilience discussed how the interdependencies of the electrical grid caused vulnerabilities during and after Hurricane Florence which swept through the county in September 2018. 

“Major roadway access in and out of NHC was impossible, it equated to more than 193 miles of internal roads were impassable,” Schrader described. Although NHC did have backup generators, they ran on diesel fuel, a limited resource that they could not replenish due to the roads being obstructed. 

As part of the NCCETC’s resiliency analyses, local facilities in NHC are being screened for potential solutions which could ensure a reduction in the cumulative hours customers are without power. These solutions lie in grid modernization and distributed energy resources that can maintain critical operations and functions during any disruptive event.

According to NCCETC’s Christina Kopitopoulou, Senior Project Manager for the Clean Power & Industrial Efficiency (CPIE) program, one of the facilities that will undergo the resiliency analysis is a Wastewater Treatment Plant. “We are evaluating the viability of a combined heat and power (CHP) system which would generate power and useful thermal energy from gas captured during the anaerobic digestion process”.

The PARSG project will be wrapping up at the end of this year. Sign up to be informed of stakeholder meetings here, and stay tuned for more updates on the project.

Developing Resilient Energy Infrastructure: Combined Heat and Power

NCCETC, through the Southeast Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership (CHP TAP),  has also partnered with the U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to identify facilities that could benefit from resilient energy infrastructure. NREL recently added CHP as a technology option in their Renewable Energy Integration & Optimization (REopt) Lite tool and is conducting several case studies to evaluate the economic viability and critical load resiliency of renewable energy sources, including CHP, for different types of facilities. 

“We are assisting NREL to identify candidates for whom energy resiliency is increasingly important, to show the capabilities of the REopt tool and how CHP can help these facilities remain online when the grid loses power,” Kopitopoulou said. The CPIE team is a part of the U.S. DOE’s multi-year project, the Southeast CHP TAP, that develops and supports partnerships that can disseminate knowledge of the benefits of CHP to energy end-users. 

“CHP systems can reduce utility bills while the grid is operational and provide power to critical loads during grid outages without relying on diesel fuel. Pairing CHP with other distributed energy systems like solar PV and battery can further enhance economic, sustainability, and resilience benefits. The new additions to the REopt Lite tool, funded by U.S. DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, allow users to evaluate the feasibility of CHP alone or in combination with renewable energy and storage at their sites.” Kate Anderson leads the Modeling and Analysis Group at NREL.

NREL will use the tool to evaluate the economic viability of distributed PV, battery storage, CHP, and thermal energy storage, identify system sizes and dispatch strategies to minimize energy costs, and estimate how long a system can sustain critical load during a grid outage. The energy resiliency tool can be used to enable accurate disaster planning and recovery, microgrid resilience and more.