August 10, 2022

Wisconsin communities reveal the benefits of microgrids

Member Utilities

Earlier this year, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s Office of Energy Innovation launched the Critical Infrastructure Microgrid and Community Resilience Centers pilot grant program for local utilities to study the benefits of pursuing a microgrid in their community. Four member utilities of WPPI Energy participated in the study.

“As a locally owned, not-for-profit utility, our community depends on us to look to the future and prepare for emergency situations,” shared Alan Wildman, village administrator with Prairie du Sac. “Participating in the microgrid study helped us consider the feasibility of deploying emerging microgrid technologies for greater resilience. We are a part of the community, so we are always considering ways we can continue to improve emergency preparedness and resilience at critical facilities, like the police department.”

A microgrid is defined as a local energy grid that is often connected to the main electric grid but can be disconnected and operate autonomously. This is especially useful in emergency situations where the main power grid goes down, but the microgrid can continue to supply power to essential service buildings.

The utilities participating in the study examined the feasibility of deploying microgrids, with a focus on renewable energy and natural gas, to bolster emergency preparedness and resilience at critical infrastructure facilities and resilience hubs in Wisconsin.

Florence Elementary School:
Florence Utilities collaborated with WPPI Energy and SEPA to understand how their elementary school could benefit from a microgrid. The school also acts as an American Red Cross Shelter. The building’s existing diesel generator is aging, and new backup power sources were considered. This study will help the school council as they evaluate forward-thinking resiliency options.

Heart of the Valley Metro Sewer District Wastewater Treatment Plant:
Serving 52,000 customers in Outagamie Wis., this Wisconsin wastewater treatment plant provided a great opportunity to study the benefits of microgrids for an essential community service. This project was pursued in collaboration with Kaukauna Utilities.

Sauk Prairie Police Department:
The police department serving Prairie du Sac and Sauk City, Wis., resides in a building that also houses an emergency operations center that provides critical services to residents throughout Sauk County in the event of a major emergency. The study, supported by the Village of Prairie du Sac, also considered the impact of building a future police vehicle fleet made up of electric vehicles, and how the increased electrification would impact energy resiliency.

Sun Prairie Library:
Sun Prairie is currently redeveloping an existing library. As part of the redevelopment, the city worked with Sun Prairie Utilities to consider whether the library could serve as a community resiliency center, providing residents with essential services in the case of a prolonged electric outage. The study also evaluated solar photovoltaic (PV) and a battery energy storage system.

To serve the needs of the sites and their communities, the local electric utilities collaborated with key customers along with outside organizations such as WPPI Energy, Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), and Slipstream. The goal was to better understand critical facility function, community profiles, natural disaster risks, and emission reduction goals to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of deploying onsite solar, storage, and other microgrid technologies for resilience.

“Because solar plus storage is an emerging technology, studies like these are essential to building customer confidence for future adoption,” commented Anna Stieve, senior energy services manager with WPPI Energy. “The studies also provide WPPI and our member utilities with a clearer understanding of how solar and storage may impact both the distribution system and power supply requirements.”

The studies identified a microgrid as a resilience solution for critical customer and community services, developed microgrid designs that incorporated varying power supply technologies, evaluated the feasibility of carbon-free and reduced carbon options such as solar and battery storage, and utilized stakeholder input to evaluate the capability of each microgrid design.

“On the surface, a microgrid project can be an overwhelming endeavor for a school district, sewer district, or police commission,” said Jared Leader, director of resilience at SEPA. “However, when presented as an onsite solution in terms of resilience, energy savings, and carbon reduction, customers and utilities can make informed decisions for their communities.  These studies demonstrate how microgrids can be deployed to support the transition to a carbon-free energy future, and how organizations can collaborate to connect customer needs with innovative solutions.”

Program results are available at


Pictured: Sun Prairie Library