Xcel Energy, Bayfield County: Partner to construct Wisconsin’s first microgrid under new utility program

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (January 19, 2023) – Xcel Energy and Bayfield County have signed an agreement to partner to construct Wisconsin’s first microgrid under an innovative new utility program. Through Xcel Energy’s EMPOWER Resiliency program, Bayfield County, in far northern Wisconsin, will build a microgrid to enhance the county’s emergency services and response system, ensuring it is capable of operating in the event of a utility outage without interruption.

Xcel Energy was the first utility in Wisconsin to begin offering a comprehensive program to support microgrids and other resiliency projects for large business customers and governmental entities who require a higher than standard service reliability. The program is designed to be technology agnostic and allows customers to choose resiliency options to best meet their needs.

“Delivering safe, reliable power to our customers is at the core of Xcel Energy’s business,” said Brian Elwood, general manager, Customer and Community Service. “We understand some customers have exceptional resiliency needs to operate their facilities. We have a long history of partnership with Bayfield County and excited to partner with them on this project to realize their resiliency goals.”

Bayfield County’s project allows it to isolate the county jail and courthouse from the utility grid in the event of an outage or emergency. Through the program, Xcel Energy will own, operate and maintain the electrical distribution system components connecting the two buildings, while the county will own the distributed energy resources (solar panels, battery energy storage system and back-up diesel generator). While isolated (or ‘islanded’), both the jail and courthouse can be served from any of the distributed energy resources within the microgrid.

“Bayfield County’s job is to provide essential services at all times,” said Bayfield County Administrator Mark Abeles-Allison. “Through a unique partnership between Xcel Energy, Chequamegon Bay Renewables, Jolma Electric and MuGrid Analytics, this utility project will ensure energy delivery during severe weather events through a cost-effective combination of solar, battery storage and generator power.” 

Bayfield County is working towards energy independence as the first courthouse and jail in Wisconsin served by a microgrid. 

“Nothing is more important than reliable energy and our environment,” said Bayfield County Board Chair Dennis Pocernich. “This project demonstrates Bayfield County’s collaboration with Xcel Energy and our willingness to jointly explore innovative methods to ensure critical service delivery continuance.”

As part of their project, Bayfield County received a $273,714 grant from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s Office of Energy Innovation. The project is expected to be completed in mid-2023.