An aerial view of the Arlington Microgrid and North County Training Center. (Snohomish County PUD)

An aerial view of the Arlington Microgrid and North County Training Center. (Snohomish County PUD)

Experimental micro electrical grid to be built in Arlington

It would incorporate multiple energy technologies and provide backup in emergencies.

ARLINGTON — A $9.5 million project focused on renewable energy and the creation of a microgrid, which could operate independently from the rest of the area’s power grid in an emergency, is planned near the Arlington Municipal Airport.

The Arlington Microgrid and Clean Energy Technology Center is on track to be built next year at 17601 59th Ave. NE. Snohomish County PUD is in charge of the project, which is supported by a $3.5 million grant from the Washington Clean Energy Fund.

It’s expected to be one of the first five microgrids in the state, project manager Scott Gibson said.

The center would incorporate multiple energy technologies, according to the public utility district. An array of solar panels would generate power. At nearly 600 kilowatts, it is expected to be one of the largest in the state. A battery system would store energy. Electric vehicles could plug into the system to charge or discharge energy.

The microgrid would provide an emergency back-up in case of a disaster, such as a major storm or an earthquake. While the solar panels normally will feed into the larger PUD network to power homes and businesses, the Arlington location could be disconnected if needed.

“The system allows us to basically island it,” said Neil Neroutsos, PUD spokesman. “We could isolate it and run the facility separate from the grid … We have some experience with solar, but we’ve never used it with a microgrid, so that’s a new component.”

This graphic shows the various components of the microgrid system. (Snohomish County PUD)

This graphic shows the various components of the microgrid system. (Snohomish County PUD)

The goal is to bring the microgrid online by 2020, Neroutsos said. A second phase of construction would add a new Arlington PUD office by 2022. In an emergency, the microgrid would power that office so the PUD could work toward recovery efforts, including restoration of power to affected areas.

“It’s like a renewable-powered emergency generator,” Gibson said. “So instead of having a fossil fuel generator, a diesel-powered generator, it’s going to be powered by the sun.”

Critical facilities, such as hospitals and fire and police stations, are looking at microgrids and renewable energy for their back-up power options, Gibson said. The PUD has 26 acres in Arlington, where the new center would be a chance to research and evaluate a solar-powered microgrid.

“It’s a way for us to learn more about how all of these technologies — batteries and solar and electric vehicles and microgrids — can benefit the utility as well as our rate-payers,” Gibson said. “I think it’s going to be a really interesting project, and I think people are going to learn a lot from it.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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