IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Frostburg State to Build Microgrid for Emergency Shelter

The university will develop a clean energy microgrid with solar arrays, thermal storage and advanced heat-exchange systems to power a community emergency shelter and mitigate the impact of power outages.

Frostburg State University entrance sign.
Credit: Frostburg State University Facebook page
As state and local governments have realized the vulnerability of their power utilities to natural disasters, climate change and even cyber attacks, many of them have been exploring the use of microgrids for resilient operations. Defined by the U.S. Department of Energy as localized power grids that can disconnect from traditional grids to operate autonomously, microgrids have seen investments across the U.S. this year from Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to Humboldt County, Calif., and prominently from the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA), which launched three initiatives in February to increase their deployment. The latest beneficiary of MEA’s program is Frostburg State University, which received a $750,000 grant from the administration to install a new clean energy microgrid to protect its campus from disruptions and power a local emergency shelter.

According to a news release Monday, the university started exploring the idea of building a campus microgrid in 2020, when a state grant helped cover the costs of a feasibility study and preconstruction planning. The university’s analysis deemed the project not only possible but a potential asset to the campus and surrounding community, an option for powering an emergency shelter to be fashioned out of one of FSU’s buildings.

“We are excited for Maryland institutions like Frostburg that see the benefits of expanding sustained electrical power through this program,” MEA Director Mary Tung said in a public statement. “In times of much-needed emergency operation, it’s vital to ensure our communities protect our most at-risk with the necessary energy resources.”

The news release said the project will use an advanced microgrid control system to manage solar energy technology, thermal storage and advanced heat exchange systems, as well as rooftop and ground-mounted solar arrays installed across campus and a solar canopy with electric vehicle charging stations. FSU will also install a fuel cell that will be able to heat water for campus, or cool it with an absorption chiller.

The university also touted the project as a source of clean energy jobs and economic development for Maryland, with the preplanning analysis already having created student internships and inspired the launch of certification and degree programs.

So far, the announcement said, MEA’s Resilient Maryland programs have awarded over $4 million from the Strategic Energy Investment Fund to identify 30 microgrid and other potential distributed-energy projects across the state. It noted that similar projects have also been explored at other higher learning institutions, such as Allegany College of Maryland, Garrett College, Howard Community College and the University of Maryland.

“Providing career training and opportunities for Western Maryland is a crucial component of keeping well-paying, local jobs in these communities,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a public statement. “It has revealed that they are ripe for innovation and leadership in Maryland’s clean energy transition.”