Microgrid Focus: Enel X and the Alltown Fresh Station Microgrid in Massachusetts

June 29, 2022
The benefit for Global Partners and Alltown are reduced energy costs and elevated resiliency through the microgrid. The project includes 87 kW in rooftop solar panels and a 87-kW / 174 kWh battery storage system

Convenience stores just might be a perfect stop for the future of on-site microgrids.

The stores offer food and fuel along the highways and byways, after all, which is not a trivial matter during extreme weather which might impact both travel and/or the surrounding utility grid. Making stations truly a beacon during blackouts is an attractive motivation in the industry.

One such thing experiment was completed recently at the Alltown Fresh service station in Ayer, Massachusetts. Advanced energy services firm Enel X oversaw the project from start to operational kickoff announced in May.

Ayer is located on the east end of the Bay State, so it is potentially as vulnerable to extreme coastal weather as Salisbury or Oak Bluff. Superstorms are wide ranging disasters and no community is immune.

So Enel X ensured that the Alltown microgrid is island-able, meaning it could operate even during a regional or massive power outage. That was an ambitious, tough goal to reach.

“With microgrids, the challenge is extra cost and complexity when the whole thing is islandable,” David Rodriguez, innovation director at Enel X, said in an exclusive interview with EnergyTech. “There’s a lot of extra costs in switchgear and engineering.”

Enel X, the energy transition subsidiary of Italian energy provider Enel Group, bore all the costs of the Alltown microgrid upfront. Global Partners LP, the chain’s owner, pays back in installments at a flat rate.

The benefit for Global Partners and Alltown are reduced energy costs and elevated resiliency through the microgrid. The project includes 87 kW in rooftop solar panels and a 87-kW / 174 kWh battery storage system, as well as a QuickConnect system available for a portable generator if longer term power is needed.

To support EV drivers, Enel X installed a universally compatible JuicePump 50 kW, which can charge vehicles up to 80% battery capacity in 30 to 60 minutes.

All in all, the Alltown Fresh Microgrid is grid-connected. The solar and storage can offer demand response and contribute to the macro-grid during peak demand which also results in a net cost savings for the customer, Rodriguez noted.

“When you add those things, the site could see a 10-20 percent reduction in their yearly cost on utility bills,” he said.

No diesel or gas generators are on the site, but they can be wheeled in on short notice. The specially designed switchgear panel, called QuickConnect, simplifies the microgrid tie-in process.

All of which could prove crucial in another Superstorm Sandy-type event.

“At least you have more layers of resiliency,” Rodriguez said.

The Alltown Fresh microgrid is the first to be completed through the InnovateMass Resilient Service Stations Challenge.

Enel X plans to scale up its microgrid offerings in the near future. The developer has worked with energy management and metering firm Eaton on microgrid projects in Puerto Rico.

That project will be led by Enel X-deployed solar and storage hybrids to help customers of the island territory’s oft-damaged main grid. The project is aligned with Puerto Rico Energy Bureau’s targets of 3,500 MW of solar and 1,500 MW in energy storage by 2025.

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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 14-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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