Solar Microgrid Feasibility Study for City of Ann Arbor (2017)

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Published by the University of Michigan Energy Institute

As part of its 2012 Climate Action Plan (CAP), the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan set goals to reduce emissions by 8 percent of year 2000 carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) levels by 2015, 25 percent by 2025, and 90 percent by 2050. Meeting such aggressive emissions reduction goals requires higher penetration of carbon-free energy sources into the city’s existing energy mix, with CAP solar goals calling for 24 MW of new solar installations by 2025. While the city’s electric utility provider is taking similarly aggressive steps to reduce its CO2e emissions through 2050, Ann Arbor has actively sought ways to expedite the transition from a fossil fuel-heavy portfolio to a more renewables-centered one by exploring the possibility of distributed generation resources on city-owned properties. This study, conducted by a multidisciplinary team of students from the University of Michigan, assessed the feasibility of solar microgrid installations at sites owned by the city of Ann Arbor.

Research Challenge
Ann Arbor’s request called for an assessment of possible sites for microgrids, focusing on resilience of assets and reduction of emissions. Initial research and discussion led to the conclusion that solar photovoltaic (PV) systems were the most easily adapted to available city sites, and thus represented the best opportunity for microgrid installations. Further discussion prompted the decision to incorporate battery storage at select sites for increased resilience potential. Wind, biomass, and hydroelectric power (via two local dams) were also initially considered as potential generation sources, but were not pursued in depth. In addition, all sites chosen for study were evaluated with respect to policy concerns in order to ensure that microgrid installations could be permitted according to state and federal laws and local ordinances.


Will Arnuk, Krysten Dorfman, Emma Forbes, Ahana Shanbhogue, Nick Soberal, Adam Simon, Susan Fancy, Peter Knoop