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Missouri University of Science & Technology (MS&T)
Microgrid incorporating solar-PV, solar-thermal water heating, fuel-cell waste-heat recovery, battery-based energy storage, and a Central Energy Plant for the Solar Village
The Azimuth team worked with Missouri Science and Technology (MS&T) to plan, engineer, and construct a first-of-its-kind, research test-bed microgrid on the school’s campus. The microgrid manages electricity and hot water energy resources among the four buildings of the Phase-1 project. The microgrid, named the “Solar Village,” provides residential housing for graduate students, collecting all energy data from the buildings for use in various research projects. Azimuth Energy is also the operator of the Solar Village. We are responsible for screening and integrating research requests into ongoing upgrades and budgets on behalf of the University.
Design Rationale and System Architecture: The multi-phase project involved installation and upgrades of the solar-PV arrays on four buildings, and the engineering and construction of a central energy plant for the “Solar Village”. The Central Plant connects and distributes electricity and hot water among the buildings. The Central Plant also integrates a lithium-ion battery energy storage system, a natural gas fuel cell, and a microgrid programmable logic site controller (PLC).
The MS&T Solar Village is intended to be literally a living laboratory for the University. Professors and post-doctoral researchers are using the Solar Village for studies involving electrical engineering, human behavior, and appliance design. To facilitate this flexibility, the site incorporates multiple underground duct banks, and a complex distribution system within the Central Plant. The distribution system allows any building to be powered by any source—the utility or another building. All of the building panels and loads are monitored to facilitate research studies.
Project Challenges: Complexity itself was not necessarily the challenge, but rather ensuring that the complexity was easily understood by University personnel, qualified researchers working in the Solar Village, and most importantly, emergency responders. Azimuth provided training for the University’s Maintenance team, the City’s Fire Department and Emergency Management Services, and the Utility’s Field Services personnel. Clear placarding and documentation were key elements to ensuring safe operation over the decades-long life cycle of the project and the campus buildings.
As noted above, the site footprint is very small. Designing and constructing a highly complex Central Plant into the limited space available required many iterations and meetings among the stakeholders before the first shovel of dirt was turned. Given the high voltage and current that was present in the small Central Plant building, it was essential to build adequate clearances for general occupant safety and arc flash protection. These design decisions required very thorough understanding of the building code, municipal and utility regulations, and general safety best practices.
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