Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Schneider and REC Solar leverage IoT for microgrid

Steve Rogerson
Match 28, 2018
French energy company Schneider Electric is working with REC Solar to build a microgrid at its Foxboro, Massachusetts, facility using industrial IoT technology. The microgrid will be funded by Schneider's microgrid-as-a-service (MaaS) business model.
This is the third MaaS project with Duke Energy Renewables, which acquired REC Solar late last year, and will offer power resilience to help the company better serve its customers. The Foxboro facility operates as Schneider Electric's North American power generation centre of excellence.
Many facilities believe a backup generator is sufficient for power resilience, but typical backup generators are tied only to selected loads and don't allow facilities to remain fully operational. Adding microgrid and automation capabilities can enhance resilience, prevent outages in the event of grid failure and allow facilities to maintain operations as usual.
Commercial and industrial facilities that experience a power outage will suffer loss of productivity. A 30-minute power cut at a US facility reportedly results in an average loss of $15,709 for medium and large industrial users, and shorter blackouts account for an annual estimated economic loss of between $104bn and $164bn. Thus, even a short duration grid outage can cost companies thousands of hours of productivity.
This announcement comes less than a year after Schneider Electric unveiled the microgrid at its Boston One Campus in Andover, Massachusetts. The microgrid offers Schneider increased reliability, cost savings and sustainable energy production for critical R&D operations and was funded by its MaaS business model, which helps companies build microgrids without needing upfront capital.
"Our customers demand power resilience from the microgrids we install at their sites, and our facilities rely on the same high standards to keep sites online in the event of a grid outage," said Mark Feasel, vice president of Schneider Electric. “Through our existing partnership with REC Solar and Duke Energy Renewables, we have seen first-hand the benefits of installing advanced microgrids at commercial and industrial facilities through the MaaS business model. This microgrid ensures the building will remain operational during unplanned outages, in addition to optimising the use of our on-site resources that demonstrate Schneider Electric's commitment to sustainability."
As part of the microgrid deployment at the Foxboro facility, Schneider Electric will use its flagship EcoStruxure hybrid distributed control system (DCS) to harness power of the industrial IoT and connect all components of the architecture. The DCS provides asset management capabilities and enables energy optimisation and troubleshooting to ensure a resilient, cost-effective and sustainable source of power via the microgrid.
EcoStruxure is Schneider Electric's IoT-enabled, open and interoperable system architecture and platform that works across connected products, edge control, and apps, analytics and services. The architecture enables scalable design and operation of connected systems with cyber security built in at every layer.
EcoStruxure Profit Advisor and Termis district energy optimisation software will also be incorporated to optimise the thermal distribution and energy (opex) costs. Patented IIoT software that uses big data analytics to measure and reveal the profitability of an industrial operation in real time, Profit Advisor provides insight into how every production asset within the plant contributes to the operational profitability of the company.
The Foxboro microgrid will include on-site control software and hardware through the use of EcoStruxure microgrid advisor and the energy control centre, in addition to the deployment of on-going monitoring and services including turnkey implementation and engineering, procurement, and construction. The microgrid advisor will help Schneider track and make CO2 reduction measures visible to the facility managers.
As the investor owner of the project, California-based REC Solar will be leveraged as the capital partner to fund, own and operate the microgrid assets. Upon its completion by the end of the year, the microgrid will mark the third MaaS project that Schneider Electric has completed with the REC Solar and Duke Energy Renewables team.
"Microgrid-as-a-service makes microgrids accessible to a wider variety of customers and has prompted innovation within the industry," said Chris Hiller, lead architect at REC Solar. "By partnering with Schneider Electric, we have helped customers integrate microgrids with no upfront capital, while helping companies achieve more efficient and sustainable energy consumption."