Featured Insights

Featured Insights

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. 

Monitoring the System

Black & Veatch continually monitors its microgrid system through ASSET360™, the company’s robust, cloud-based analytics platform. ASSET360 collects data from the system and monitors both the performance of each component and the overall integrated system. A large screen display in the Innovation Pavilion allows visitors to interact with the ASSET360 dashboard and observe microgrid operations in real time.

“We’re pulling the data and putting it in an HTML format that helps us visualize the data. Visualizing the data helps us understand how to best manage it,” said Aaron Attebery, Solutions Engineer, Smart Integrated Infrastructure.

On the large screen display, the ascending graph showing the solar output corresponds with the rising of the sun, and it is just as easy to spot when a “cloud event” occurs that greatly reduces the solar panel electrical generation. The data graphs are displayed against a backdrop of the Innovation Pavilion’s total energy needs. The display also shows when the Innovation Pavilion is pulling power from the main grid, when excess power is being sent back to the main World Headquarters building, when the battery system kicks in, and when the two microturbines intervene to produce needed power. 

“Through this, we’re gathering the data and analytics that can answer the questions clients may have,” Attebery said. 

“Our microgrid showcases the company’s capabilities for our clients and the public,” said Dave Kerns, Executive Vice President, Energy. “It is an example of our commitment and expertise in providing world-class solutions for global renewable energy and distributed power generation markets.”

Analyzing the Full Life Cycle

Erickson said Black & Veatch’s core markets will continue to be the centralized utility industry. “But we also will serve a portion of the energy market that is going to go with microgrids, for a variety of reasons – sustainability, reliability, resiliency and environmental.” 

He emphasized that by doing the conceptual design, providing EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) services, and providing operations and maintenance (O&M) on its own microgrid, the company can closely study the entire life cycle of the project. 

“We’re looking at our own energy bills and analyzing them. We did our own permitting and installation, and worked with the state environmental agency on this project. We do our O&M on the complete system. So we’re in this for the full life cycle of the project.” 

By owning the data and the system, Black & Veatch can better understand the economics of such an integrated system.    

“When clients come to Black & Veatch for assistance on distributed generation, microgrids, geothermal, battery storage or microturbines, we can help them serve this market and provide solutions for their customers,” Erickson said. “This is what the future looks like.” 

Subject Matter Experts
Jon Erickson: EricksonJC@bv.com
Dave Kerns: KernsDE@bv.com
Aaron Attebery: AtteberyA@bv.com

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