Faith Technologies building clean energy microgrid

Faith Technologies, a Menasha-based electrical contracting company, is building a clean energy microgrid to power the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton.

It’s working with global connected technology company Schneider Electric to install the EcoStruxure Microgrid Advisor program, which will manage energy distribution throughout the 725-acre facility, including to a new 18,000-square-foot environmental center.

Faith Technologies will construct the microgrid, and is working alongside Appleton-based Boldt Construction on the environmental center.

The Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve hosts educational outdoor programs for kids and adults. Programming include lessons on bird watching, geology, energy cycles of the forest and more.

The preserve also offers visitors options for ski and snowshoe rentals, and will have event space in the environmental center once it’s complete in early 2018.

The new microgrid will be fueled by renewable energy from photovoltaic solar, a hydrogen fuel cell, battery storage, a natural gas generator and a microturbine -- a type of combustion turbine that produces electricity and heat on a relatively small scale.

According to the Whole Building Design Guide, a web portal from the National Institute of Building Sciences, microturbines offer some advantages over other small-scale power generators: compact, lightweight size; lower emissions; a small number of moving parts; lower electricity costs; and opportunities to use waste fuels. This relatively new technology can yield efficiencies greater than 80 percent when paired with heat recovery programs, according to the guide.

As well as powering the facility with net zero carbon emissions, the system will serve as a teaching tool for students in STEM fields.

“By marrying the Internet of Things to its energy system, the Bubolz microgrid will be able to optimize when it consumes, produces or stores energy, thereby demonstrating the highest levels of sustainability, reliability and efficiency,” said Philip Barton, director for the Schneider Electric Microgrid Competency Center.

Charlie Fredrickson, vice president of investments at Faith Technologies, says the microgrid will “demonstrate what is possible” with on-site power generation and energy management.

“The Bubolz microgrid will keep Wisconsin and the Midwest on the forefront of research to transform the way we source and manage energy,” Fredrickson said.

--By Alex Moe

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