Plans for a solar microgrid at Capitol Hill community center will power building, through rain, shine… or disaster

Miller Community Center (Image: CHS)

Seattle’s community centers provide a lot of simple but important things to their neighborhoods including recreation and meeting space. But they could also help the city develop strength and resilience in a future of extreme weather and in emergencies like a giant earthquake.

Seattle City Light is partnering with Seattle Parks and Recreation to implement a first of its kind solar microgrid at Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center.

The microgrid involves more than solar panels as a battery energy storage system and microgrid controls will also be installed.

The planned system will provide backup power storage necessary to keep the community center functioning during windstorms, power outages, and other emergency events.

“The project will empower a community to recover quickly from unplanned emergency events and gain technical knowledge on the installation and operation of a microgrid system,” Seattle City Light says about the project. “Analytics from the microgrid resiliency project will allow the City of Seattle to research and develop similar technologies.”

 

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Along with providing the community center with a reliable power source, the microgrid is part of larger resilience projects in Seattle. The University of Washington will gather data analytics from the microgrid after its installation to help shape the planning.

The project will join a growing roster of energy-efficient buildings around Capitol Hill. In 2017, CHS reported on the grant-powered projects to add new photovoltaic panels on top of First Hill’s Harborview Medical Center and Broadway’s Seattle Central College. Another example is North Capitol Hill’s new Station 22 fire house where solar panels were part of the green project’s attributes. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill is also home to 10th Ave E’s Bertschi School and its Living Science Building.

At its green core, the Hill is also home to the Bullitt CenterOpened at 15th and Madison in 2013, the rare Seattle “Living Building” is still considered one of the greenest commercial projects in the world. Designed by the Miller-Hull Partnership, the heavy-timber building rises from the upward slope of E Madison above where Capitol Hill old-timers might remember the old CC’s gay bar used to stand. A huge array of solar paneling crowns the glass and steel exterior.

The Miller project now moves the conversation around green technology to a focus beyond the environment and climate change.

For one, it could end up saving the city money. The $3.3 million “demonstration project” microgrid is expected to reduce the amount of electricity Seattle Parks buys from Seattle City Light, while saving about $4,000 annually, and about $70,000 over the 14-year life of the project, the city says.

It also could be the first step in helping the City of Seattle develop technologies that will help it become more resilient to natural disasters that disrupt its power grid. The Miller microgrid will work by capturing solar energy with photovoltaic panels and then storing the energy in a large commercial battery on site.

Design and construction of the microgrid and installation of the battery system is scheduled for early 2020. The project is funded by a $1.8 million investment from Seattle City Light and a $1.5 million Clean Energy fund grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce.

Project staff will answer questions and provide additional details about the microgrid implementation at an informational meeting hosted by City Light and Seattle Parks. The meeting will be held on Wednesday July 10th from 4 to 6 PM at Miller Community Center, 330 19th Ave. E., Seattle, WA 98112.

You can learn more at seattle.gov/light/atwork.

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