PECO Gets Okay for $50 to $100M Microgrid Pilot in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission yesterday approved a $50 to $100 million microgrid pilot program planned by PECO Energy.
The microgrid pilot accompanies the utility’s five-year, $274 million reliability and resiliency plan to modernize its electric distribution system.
The Exelon subsidiary expects to build one or more microgrids in its service territory over the 2017 to 2020 time frame.
“PECO indicates that these projects could be potential alternatives to traditional transmission and distribution solutions, and that the company is focusing on areas where the projects can provide significant benefit to diverse customer segments and critical facilities,” said Pamela Witmer, state public utility commissioner.
Like other utility microgrid pilots in the Northeast, PECO’s program was spurred in part by widespread outages from increasingly intense storms in recent years. Superstorm Sandy left 850,000 of the utility’s customers without power and forced the utility to replace 140 miles of conductors and 2,538 cross arms.
PECO’s move into microgrids also is in keeping with the direction of its parent Exelon and its affiliate in Chicago, Commonwealth Edison, which also are moving strongly into the microgrid sphere.
PECO filed the plan (Docket No. R-2015-2471423) in March with the Pennsylvania utility regulators. The utility said in the filing that it has been monitoring development of microgrid technology and developments in other states and believes that microgrids could replace obsolete utility infrastructure.
The microgrids will be installed where they can help “diverse customer segments,” the utility said. These may include microgrids that serve hospitals, retirement communities, emergency care, supermarkets, gas stations, banks, pharmacies, hotels, home improvement stores and telecommunications, wastewater, and energy facilities, and similar sites.
In particular, the utility will pursue grid-connected microgrids that:
Benefit the public by improving resiliency during storms
Address existing reliability and capacity needs
Leverage the existing centralized grid
Offer cost-effective alternatives to transmission and distribution
Use technology that provides valuable information that can be used in future projects.