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New Studies Show Benefits of Microgrids for Wisconsin Communities

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WPPI Media Contact: Jen Dickman, [email protected]; 608-214-5552

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Extreme weather events in Wisconsin are increasing in both frequency and economic impact, with the potential to cause prolonged outages and disproportionately affect underserved communities. In response, the Smart Energy Power Alliance (SEPA) and WPPI Energy, a not-for-profit wholesale energy provider located in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin examined the feasibility of deploying microgrids, with a focus on renewable energy and natural gas, to bolster emergency preparedness and resilience at three critical infrastructure facilities and resilience hubs in Wisconsin.

A microgrid is defined as a local energy grid that is often connected to the main electric grid but can be disconnected and operate autonomously. This is especially useful in emergency situations where the main power grid goes down, but the microgrid can continue to supply power to essential service buildings.

Florence Elementary School:

  • This project, located in Florence, Wisconsin, was a collaboration between Florence Utilities, SEPA, WPPI Energy, and an elementary school that also acts as an American Red Cross Shelter. The school’s existing diesel generator is aging, and new backup power sources must be considered. This study helps the school council as they evaluate forward-thinking resiliency options.

Heart of the Valley Metro Sewer District Wastewater Treatment Plant:

  • Serving 52,000 customers in Outagamie, Wisconsin, this wastewater treatment plant provided an opportunity to study the benefits of microgrids for an essential community service. This project was pursued in collaboration with Kaukauna Utilities.

Sauk Prairie Police Department:

  • The police department serving Prairie du Sac and Sauk City, Wisconsin, resides in a building that also houses an emergency operations center, providing critical services to residents throughout Sauk County in the event of a major emergency. The study, supported by the Village of Prairie du Sac, also considered the impact of building a future police vehicle fleet made up of electric vehicles, and how the increased electrification would impact energy resiliency.

“WPPI Energy is made up of 51 locally owned, not-for-profit utilities which are essential to the people and businesses they serve,” shared Anna Stieve, senior energy services manager with WPPI Energy. “Florence Utilities, Kaukauna Utilities, and Prairie du Sac Utilities all participated in the studies because they recognize that microgrids have the potential to be a benefit for their communities, especially during emergencies.”

To serve the needs of the sites and communities, WPPI Energy and SEPA collaborated with the local electric utilities and key customers to better understand critical facility function, community profiles, natural disaster risks, and emission reduction goals to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of deploying onsite solar, storage, and other microgrid technologies for resilience.

“Because solar plus storage is an emerging technology, studies like this one are essential to building customer confidence for future adoption,” continued Stieve. “The studies also provide WPPI and our member utilities with a clearer understanding of how solar and storage may impact both the distribution system and power supply requirements.”

The studies identify a microgrid as a resilience solution for critical customer and community services, develop microgrid designs that incorporate varying power supply technologies, evaluate the feasibility of carbon-free and reduced carbon options such as solar and battery storage, and utilize stakeholder input to evaluate the capability of each microgrid design.

“On the surface, a microgrid project can be an overwhelming endeavor for a school district, sewer district, or police commission,” said Jared Leader, director of resilience at SEPA. “However, when presented as an onsite solution in terms of resilience, energy savings, and carbon reduction, customers and utilities can make informed decisions for their communities. These studies demonstrate how microgrids can be deployed to support the transition to a carbon-free energy future, and how organizations such as SEPA and WPPI Energy can collaborate to connect customer needs with innovative solutions.”

Each study assesses the feasibility of deploying a microgrid as a pre-disaster mitigation technique. Download the public reports here.

If you are wondering how microgrid feasibility studies work or exploring microgrids for resilience in your own communities, this helpful infographic includes summary results from Wisconsin and SEPA’s replicable 4-step process to engaging customers and stakeholders, understanding resilience needs and renewable preferences, designing conceptual microgrids, and conducting economic analysis.

Want to learn more about this project and/or other SEPA and WPPI Energy’s resilience initiatives? Contact Anna Stieve at [email protected] and Jared Leader at [email protected]


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