By Seth Roffman
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has awarded a $351,000 Public Works grant to Santa Fe Community College for SFCC’s Building Energy Automation and Microgrid Training Center (BEAMtc). The grant is funding the purchase of equipment needed for worker training. The total project budget is over $700,000, with a cost-share from the State of New Mexico.
The BEAMtc, housed at the college’s Trades and Advanced Technology Center, is also focused on product development and testing. It is intended to serve the entire North Central New Mexico Economic Development District (Colfax, Los Alamos, Mora, Río Arriba, San Miguel, Santa Fe and Taos counties, as well as nine pueblos and tribes). It is expected to attract jobs and businesses to the region and position engineering students for employment in the rapidly growing microgrid industry. U.S. Congressman Ben Ray Luján foresees the training center making SFCC a statewide leader in building a green-energy workforce and economy.
Siemens and other industry partners are donating equipment and engineering expertise. Siemens, a global microgrid company that has committed to corporate carbon neutrality by 2030, announced its partnership with SFCC at the Microgrid 2017 conference to nearly 500 senior industry participants. Siemens was a partner in the Building Energy for a Sustainable Tomorrow (BEST) initiative that informed the design of the BEAMtc. The national BEST Center supports publicly funded college programs in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) controls, building automation and energy/facilities management. Sponsored by Advanced Technological Education grants from the National Science Foundation, this national collaborative promotes state-of-the-art building technician education and dissemination of the latest research, technology and industry collaborations in energy-efficient buildings.
SFCC is partnering with Seimens by using the company’s microgrid management software at the new “nanogrid” lab and has contracted support from the Microgrid Systems Laboratory (MSL) for coordination and regional networking. The program will provide training with real-world technology used by many private and public utilities to operate the nation’s power grid. Students will be able to see real-time data and run simulations. Such software has become increasingly important in the management of the growing number of distributed energy (battery-stored renewable energy) resources being added to the grid. The college is also partnering with Microgrid Systems Lab for workforce training and professional development. MSL, which led the center’s preliminary planning and fundraising, is serving as project director to implement the program.
The research and teaching nanogrid will incorporate traditional power generation, photo-voltaic solar power, natural gas and a battery energy storage
system that will be installed on the campus this year. Students will be trained to optimize power generation based on specified needs such as carbon reduction or as a response to weather conditions.
The BEAMtc itself is incorporating building energy management techniques as a component of smart energy systems design, and developing these principles in a nanogrid serving SFCC’s new greenhouse complex for advanced hydroponics and aquaponics. Both the building energy lab and the greenhouse nanogrid will become nodes on a proposed campus-wide microgrid that will help the college improve energy resilience as well as to operate more efficiently and sustainably. Based on a conceptual design by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Siemens’ engineers will deploy a complete operating system including multiple generation sources, demand management, storage, thermal loops, islanding capability, and Siemens’s utility-grade microgrid controller, to be housed in a second lab.