Faith Technologies installs microgrid at Appleton nature preserve

Faith Technologies recently installed a clean energy microgrid at the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton, aiming to reduce the preserve’s operating costs through more efficient use of energy resources.

“The sustainability that’s built into this program with the microgrid is off the charts,” said Mike Jansen, CEO of Menasha-based Faith Technologies, at the recent unveiling. “It’s probably the most sophisticated microgrid in the country.”

He says there are about 300 microgrids currently active in the United States, used by facilities and organizations that have critical energy needs such as hospitals or big data centers.

This microgrid was designed and installed by Faith Technologies in partnership with energy management company Schneider Electric. Bubolz Nature Preserve covers about 700 acres in total, including a 18,000-square-foot headquarters building.

With the microgrid installed, the preserve will be “running totally independent from the grid,” according to John Bergstrom, chairman of the board for Bubolz.

The microgrid includes solar panels, a hydrogen fuel cell, a lithium-ion battery storage system, a micro-turbine and a natural gas generator. The system connects to a power control center through which the mix of distributed energy resources can be tweaked to find the most efficient combination of resources.

“Heating, air conditioning, lighting — [we are] operating this whole facility using the latest in microgrid technology,” Bergstrom said in a video from the microgrid’s recent unveiling. “It is an amazing step forward.”

The mission at Bubolz Nature Preserve is to educate children on the environment and how humans interact with it — “and really get people to think differently about how the future of energy preservation, the world will look,” Jansen said.

On top of improving energy costs for Bubolz, Faith plans to use the microgrid as a “living lab,” where kids can learn more about energy systems through STEM programs. Jansen says it will be useful for gaining new business as well, as Faith can “bring customers in here and work out solutions for them to enhance their businesses.”

“Basically one of the ideas is to do much more with less,” he said. “This lab will absolutely help our customers do just that.”

Bergstrom says implementing the microgrid “preserves our future,” and sets up Bubolz as a model “not just for northeast Wisconsin or the state, but for America… we have proven that we can run a major facility totally independent of the problems we are all trying to figure out a solution for, that are caused by generating electricity.”

Looking ahead, Jansen expects distributed generation and microgrids to play a big role in energy management.

“I think every building, facility, structure that uses utility today will have its own power-generating station,” he added. “It will produce power for itself, and it will do it in a clean way, a very efficient way, a very economical way.”

–By Alex Moe