Utilities News

City & VMware Explore Microgrid Partnership

City & VMware Explore Microgrid Partnership

VMware announced its intent to explore developing a microgrid at its headquarters campus with the City of Palo Alto that will serve as a testbed for the company and the City to explore the potential of microgrids to advance resiliency at the corporate and community level. Palo Alto and VMware will also explore a partnership to use this microgrid to augment the community’s emergency services by providing a charging site for the City’s emergency command vehicles and an emergency communications node that can be used during major emergencies that cause extended power outages and fuel shortages.

A microgrid is a system of generators, batteries, and electric loads that can be operated in a controlled, coordinated way to provide resiliency. Microgrids can operate while connected to the main power grid or can power critical electric loads when off-grid.

VMware and the City of Palo Alto Utilities will explore the potential for a collaborative relationship between a public utility managing the electric distribution grid and a private company generating electricity on-site combined with storage for access to power when the grid goes down. VMware and the City will explore new technologies on this microgrid, working with VMware technologists and other academic researchers to advance the controls and software that define how a smart microgrid works and how it integrates with the broader utility network.

“Palo Alto has long been a leader in sustainability and our community has a strong commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and carbon impact,” said Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss. “The opportunity to partner with VMware to use this microgrid as a way to strengthen our emergency services could help advance our readiness as a community.”

Climate change is encouraging a wave of investments from both the private and public sectors in renewable power generation. Locally-generated renewable power needs to be well-integrated into the electric distribution grid provided by utilities to enable the continuation of safe and reliable services expected by utility customers.

VMware’s goal is to expand this initial “proof of concept” into a campus-level community microgrid that incorporates renewable power, battery storage and additional controls in a network that can operate cooperatively with the City of Palo Alto Utilities infrastructure. As envisioned, this microgrid would also be isolated from the larger power grid to operate independently if the larger grid fails – providing a level of backup power for critical systems.

“VMware has already committed to powering 100 percent of our global operations with renewable power by 2020 as part of our Global Impact goals,” said Pat Gelsinger, chief executive officer, VMware. “We also recognize the need to do more, and challenge ourselves to apply technology and innovation in service of the pressing issues of our day. We believe the future includes more renewable energy delivered into a distributed, responsive, efficient and secure smart electrical grid.”

There are a range of environmental, economic, and resilience benefits to this project, including additional local solar generation, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and locally-supplied back up power that are in line with Palo Alto’s sustainability and energy objectives. The City and community will benefit from VMware’s support for emergency resiliency components built into the microgrid system, potentially including for example, charging for the City’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center (MEOC) and powered wireless communications nodes. This would provide an additional command center in an extended emergency, powered by solar energy and batteries, reducing dependence on diesel generators that rely on a steady supply of fuel. By sharing data and lessons learned through this effort, VMware and the City of Palo Alto will also enable the microgrid to serve as a platform to help understand the impacts of community microgrids on Palo Alto’s existing energy infrastructure.

Last Updated: November 1, 2018