Schneider deal for autonomous vertical farm microgrid

Schneider deal for autonomous vertical farm microgrid

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

French power giant Schneider Electric has teamed up with Scale Microgrid Solutions which will design, build, own and operate a microgrid for a US indoor vertical farm

An indoor vertical farm offers vast improvements over traditional agriculture by using zero pesticides, 95 percent less water and increased footprint productivity through LED lighting but use a lot of power. The deal with Fifth Season, an indoor vertical farm technology supplier in Pittsburgh, uses standardized microgrid modules from Scale Microgrid Solutions to combines distributed energy resources, including a rooftop solar array, a battery energy storage system and a natural gas generator equipped with advanced emissions control technologies.

The microgrid will use Schneider Electric’s battery storage, switchgear and controls technology to deliver sustainable and dynamic energy management for the autonomous vertical farm, which aims to efficiently produce 200 tonnes of local produce in its first full year of operation.

“Our vertical farm in Pittsburgh is reconnecting consumers to locally grown fresh food. This is a first step in solving some of the largest problems facing society caused by the broken food system, however, this industry must achieve long term economic and environmental sustainability,” said Grant Vandenbussche, Chief Category Officer at Fifth Season. “This microgrid enables our journey to create a sustainable system that delivers healthier, fresher greens to local communities through both economic and environmental efficiencies.”

The microgrid is being financed by Scale Microgrid Solutions’ microgrid-as-a-service business model, helping Fifth Season save capital that can be used toward additional operational investments, while also immediately benefiting from more efficient, sustainable and economic energy consumption. Commissioning of the full energy system is scheduled for the middle of 2020 and it will be the first site of several that are to be constructed for Fifth Season in the next three years.

“Fifth Season is cognizant that vertical farming facilities can be energy intensive and by pairing solar generation with batteries to work with the grid, they will enable demand response, peak shaving and time of use pricing,” said Drew Gravitt, a manager leading microgrid economic optimization business development for Schneider Electric. “We’re excited to work alongside Scale Microgrid Solutions to help Fifth Season improve energy resilience and cost, while enabling renewable integration to meet its clean energy targets.”

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Microgrid Advisor (EMA), a cloud-based, demand-side energy management software platform, will be integrated to optimize the system’s performance. By leveraging predictive and learning algorithms, EMA will empower Scale Microgrid Solutions to better manage the production and consumption of its renewable energy and control energy spend. The system will be equipped to operate in parallel with traditional utility electric services during normal operating conditions, and in “island mode” to ensure that the farm remains powered during unexpected outages.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Microgrid Operations (EMO), a complete microgrid controller providing network management, generation management, and protection management for stable and optimization will also be integrated. The hardware and software solution leverages key innovative concepts – such as streamlined operator experience, advanced DER and grid management, and scalability and performance – with pre-built and pre-tested core features to help customers unlock edge control. With this capability, customers achieve a more stable microgrid by increasing their use of renewable energy DER, improving execution time and enhancing cybersecurity.

Scale Microgrid Solutions’ vertically integrated operation provides a one-stop-microgrid-shop for commercial and industrial customers. SMS’s productized project platform and pioneering microgrid-as-a-service business model unlocks the microgrid value proposition by avoiding the significant capital and time commitments that accompany typical energy infrastructure projects, all while optimizing resources and cash flows to maximize resilience, cost savings, and sustainability benefits.‎

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