Penn State Tests Low-Carbon Hybrid Microgrid

Penn State University, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, is testing a low-carbon hybrid microgrid with the goal of eventually adding additional microgrid sites across the state. It will be installed on a 600-kilowatt nano-loop of The Navy Yard microgrid. The nano-loop currently powers eight office buildings, a sewage pump station, and Penn State’s GridSTAR house and Solar Energy Training Center facilities.

Pennsylvania Marcellus shale gas will be used to fuel a gas-fired turbine power generator in combination with solar cell and battery energy storage systems.

“A natural gas-fired gas turbine system is used to generate electricity in coordination with a solar photovoltaic generating system. Excess electrical energy is stored in an associated battery system, to be utilized when on-site demand is temporarily larger than the system generating capacity, or it can be sold back to the connected utility grid on high demand days,” stated James Freihaut, technical director of The Navy Yard and professor of architectural engineering at Penn State.

The project will continuously monitor the solar photovoltaic panel arrays, battery storage systems, gas turbine electric power and useful heat output and how the outputs are being used by the buildings the system serves. It is expected that findings will form the basis for a transferable design guide of a hybrid system for resilient, low-carbon footprint microgrids elsewhere.

“Hybrid energy systems enable the best features of solar, energy storage, and natural gas turbines to be combined,” said David Riley, associate professor of architectural engineering. “This project will provide us with a highly unique platform to experiment with the operations and controls of hybrid systems, and also provide hands-on teaching and learning experiences for a variety of audiences.”