Creating the First Energy Resilient Service Station Microgrid

Creating the First Energy Resilient Service Station Microgrid

Enel’s Innovation Team developed a first-of-its-kind service station microgrid in Ayer, Massachusetts, paving the way for commercial deployment of integrated microgrids and energy resilient gas stations across the state.

David Rodriguez, Director of Innovation, and his team at Enel always knew that microgrids would be critical to the future of energy resilience. Microgrids are self-sufficient energy systems that can operate independently of the central electric grid, even in the event of power outages. But for many years, microgrid applications were primarily theoretical, not yet commercially viable – technology and energy infrastructure still needed to catch up.

So, when the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) launched its Resilient Service Stations Challenge in response to intensifying storms in the Northeast, David and the innovation team seized an opportunity to turn what was then tomorrow's energy market concepts into a reality. They developed a first-of-its-kind service station microgrid, which as of 2022, is fully operational.

The Need for Energy Resilience in Service Stations

Service stations, especially those along evacuation routes, need to ensure the lights stay on during power outages. They provide refueling, water, food, Wi-Fi connections, and other essential resources, including critical support to first responders and utility crews during an emergency. Yet, these stations experience the same grid failures as other buildings and are often ill-equipped to maintain even the most basic critical functions.

Following Hurricane Sandy and amid the increasing frequency and impact of extreme weather events, the need for continuous power for service stations became a top priority for Massachusetts state leaders.

Building the First Energy Resilient Service Station Microgrid

The MassCEC’s Resilient Service Stations Challenge sought pioneering solutions offering measurable energy resilience to service stations while boosting clean energy adoption across the state. As Massachusetts is home to Enel’s North America headquarters, David and his team understood first-hand what was most needed in the community and the importance of contributing to the local clean energy economy in a way that helps partners achieve their sustainability and decarbonization goals. 

So, with concept in hand, David and his team submitted a microgrid solution that is both modular and scalable — and it was approved. Enel X worked with Global Partners LP, one of the Northeast's largest independent owners, suppliers, and operators of gasoline stations and convenience stores, to implement the microgrid at Alltown Fresh in Ayer, Massachusetts.

By incorporating Enel X's portfolio of distributed energy resources and electric mobility solutions like rooftop solar arrays, battery storage and EV charging, the team delivered the first commercial deployment of a microgrid that integrates power supply for the service station and a DC fast charger behind one utility meter. Now, Alltown Fresh can attract EV drivers who want to power their vehicles using renewable energy while supporting the local grid by decreasing overall demand and reducing emissions.

Sustainability as the Common Denominator

Sustainability is always at the core of Enel's innovation projects. And in the case of Alltown Fresh’s microgrid, the commitment to sustainability was shared among service station owners Global Partners LP, government agency MassCEC, and the Enel team, making it a win-win-win opportunity.

Global Partners LP has a unique vision for the future of service stations, and the project supports their commitment to energy resilience for their community, embracing drivers’ transition to electric mobility and contributing to a sustainable future. For MassCEC, it was an opportunity to take the first step towards increasing statewide adoption of clean energy and advancing solutions that lead to energy security, reliability, and resilient energy infrastructure.And for Enel, it was an opportunity to continue to innovate and create a new microgrid solution that is modular and scalable, allowing businesses to sustainably electrify their infrastructure while saving on energy costs. By collaborating across teams and looking to build tomorrow's grid, Enel can now offer flexible financing solutions that enable businesses to become energy resilient.

Open Innovability: Scaling Microgrids for the Future

At Enel, innovating and co-creating with customers, partners, utilities, governments, suppliers, and a whole host of others, is the path toward bringing groundbreaking ideas like the Alltown Fresh microgrid to fruition. But making a solution possible is only the beginning when it comes to combatting the climate crisis. The next logical question was, how can a first-of-its-kind microgrid be scaled and deployed in the future?

With that in mind, David’s team created a cross-functional working group for more than six months to develop the products and go-to-market strategy to sell resilient, sustainable, scalable microgrids. This passionate Enel team went after creating commercial solutions in places many thought before couldn’t be possible. Enel X projects like the Eaton microgrid in Puerto Rico and UMass Boston's solar-plus-storage and EV charging infrastructure are results of this effort.

“With the proliferation of microgrid projects, we can create much more resilient regions across the U.S.,” David said when reflecting on what this project means for the future of clean energy. “It is also important to see those solar panels at the gas station, to see the fast chargers because it demonstrates that something is happening. The transition is happening.”