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New Microgrid System Helps Black & Veatch Test New Technologies

To help demonstrate to clients greater levels of sustainability and reliability, Black & Veatch constructed a microgrid to power the company’s Innovation Pavilion at its World Headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas. The microgrid will better enable the company to provide clients with the latest information, research and technologies concerning the emerging microgrid market. 

“We want to have the ‘first-mover’ advantage,” said Jon Erickson, Director of New Initiatives, Energy. “This is a living laboratory where we can view the multiple technologies integrated into one project. For example, we can watch different types of solar panels – and see which ones perform and under what conditions. We have real data vs. being theoretical.” 

A microgrid is a small-scale electrical grid with its own power system that can operate separate from or alongside the electric grid. Fully commissioned in 2015, Black & Veatch’s microgrid uses renewable energy, natural gas and battery energy storage. Black & Veatch is reducing its energy costs while providing its engineers with hands-on experience with these innovative technologies. 

Black & Veatch’s microgrid system features three rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panel groups – monocrystalline, polycrystalline and microAC inverter-based polycrystalline – that provide a total of 50 kilowatts (kW) of electricity. The system also includes two natural gas-fired microturbines that provide 130 kW of onsite power generation, a 100 kW lithium-ion battery energy storage system (BESS) and a geothermal field with 15 wells drilled 500 feet deep. 

These features combine to give Black & Veatch a flexible and sustainable energy system that has reduced its typical energy costs. The microgrid provides enough clean energy to run the entire Innovation Pavilion. In the winter, the system recovers heat from the microturbines for supplemental heating in the main building. The geothermal system is used to cool and heat the Innovation Pavilion as needed. When cloud cover reduces solar energy production, the power held in the BESS can ensure a consistent level of electrical output to the Innovation Pavilion.