Environmental, Social, and Governance

VMware’s Palo Alto Community Microgrid Proof of Concept Comes to Life

It’s no secret that natural disasters are increasing in both frequency and severity. The Sustainability team within the VMware Office of the CTO is leading innovation in both carbon reduction and new technologies that empower communities to be more resilient.

Last year, we announced our vision to build the first community microgrid in Silicon Valley. The microgrid will serve as a testbed for VMware and the City of Palo Alto to explore microgrids’ potential to advance resiliency at the corporate and community level. We are partnering with the City of Palo Alto to use the microgrid to augment the community’s emergency services. The microgrid will provide a charging site for the City’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center (MEOC) vehicles as an emergency communications node that can be used during major events that cause extended power outages and fuel shortages (such as wildfires or earthquakes).

Breaking Ground for the Stage 1 Microgrid Prototype

The microgrid proof of concept project will integrate with existing solar panels and encompass two buildings supported by two 1 MWh batteries with smart-grid software controls. Ultimately, our goal is to expand our initial proof of concept into a campus-wide community microgrid that can operate cooperatively with the City’s utility infrastructure – and become a road map for future efforts.

A few weeks ago, the team mobilized an on-site crane to lift two 26,000lb battery containers into place on the Palo Alto campus. With the containers now in place, battery cells will be installed and connected in order to provide the backup generation needed for increased resiliency.

A number of various use cases will be tested in both utility-connected and islanded (battery-connected) mode of the Microgrid. Some examples of these use cases include (but are not limited to):

  • building resiliency capabilities (full building vs. critical loads)
  • peak shedding
  • demand shifting
  • MEOC vehicle connectivity

As we complete the final construction activities on the project, our next steps are to begin commissioning and testing activities – gathering data and capturing learnings throughout the coming year.

As we look to the future, we see sustainability as a new frontier of innovation.  And for us in IT, resilience is sustainability’s twin.