Cummins Opens Microgrid Test Lab in Minnesota

 Cummins has launched its microgrid test lab at the Cummins Power Generation Facility in Fridley, Minnesota. Government officials and industry leaders graced the opening of this innovative lab. The 20000 square foot Power Integration Center (PIC) will allow engineers to explore complex microgrid systems. 

Microgrids are small-scale power systems that can generate and distribute electricity. While some microgrids stand alone, others are connected to the traditional electricity grids. Whichever type, microgrids are becoming more relevant for resiliency due to the instability of local grids, weather conditions, the changing governmental regulations, and the increasing cost of operation.

Cummins has developed several solutions for emergency standby and prime power applications that allow microgrids to operate as an island or grid-connected. The need for a lab became vivid as they integrated more renewable energy into their solutions.

‘The PIC is the realization of a significant investment in engineering technology and innovation that will impact how companies use and build power systems to meet sustainability goals for a greener future,’ said Gary Johansen, Vice President – Power Systems Engineering and Project Sponsor. 

The Power Integration Center

The Power Integration Center was completed within 18 months, costing over $5 million. If a company wishes to install a microgrid in a new location with unstable grid power, Cummins engineers will help to build a test microgrid using the lab. The test will include diesel, solar, hydrogen, natural gas gensets and battery storage systems in configuration, testing transfer switches, switchgear, and system controls.

They will provide insight into the feasibility of connections and control systems before investing in the real build. By doing this, such a company will save time and cost in building a unique power project. 

The PIC is an outdoor test area that comprises five 500 kW test pads and two 2000 kW test pads connected as loads. Two 500 kW test pads will mimic consumer load profiles at up to 0.8 leading or lagging power factor. It also includes three indoor switchgear lineups which connect the different assets in the lab and to the site utility connection. A 500 kW roof-mounted photovoltaic system is installed permanently and connected to the lab. Other energy storage simulators are employed to test various types of inverters. Then there is the engineering control room, where technicians can evaluate all sections of the microgrid system and work with clients and technical partners.

Gary Johansen had earlier stated how recent technology and market changes formed the company’s drive to invest in a microgrid lab. ‘We saw the investments that were going to be needed, both in our products and solutions and how we bring those products to the market. We’re starting to see this continual blurring of the line between pure standby and pure prime power.

Previous Energy Solutions by Cummins

The Fisherman’s Landing Marina in British Columbia, Canada, required a microgrid solution to maximize efficiency and reduce operating costs. Cummins developed a microgrid powered by a large solar array during low-demand periods. It supplied three diesel generators as extra support during peak energy demands, as well as its control and switchgear technology. 

Cummins Inc. is a global power technology leader in Columbus, Indiana. It consists of complementary business segments that integrate the design, manufacture, distribution, and service of a broad portfolio of power solutions. Cummins earned about $2.1 billion from sales of $24 billion through its independent worldwide distributors in 2021.

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