MAHARISHI UNIVERSITY OF MANAGEMENT
Solar & Storage Power Plant
Taking bold climate action by producing 43% of energy on campus & reducing energy bills by 30%
Maharishi University of Management has undertaken Iowa’s first large-scale solar & storage project with two objectives:
Achieve the University’s renewable energy share goals
Significantly lower the University’s overall electricity costs, via both energy usage reductions and peak demand shaving
The new solar & storage power plant brings the University’s renewable energy share to around 43%. By combining active tracking technology with battery energy storage MUM will cut its utility costs by a projected 30%.
Combining technology, data, design, & machine learning to create an intelligent, future-facing energy system
The 1.1 megawatt Maharishi University of Management Solar Power Plant is the first solar installation to combine active tracking technology and vanadium-flow battery energy storage in the U.S. The system uses an intelligent tracker control system that allows each individual row to move independently to compensate for shading, weather conditions, or the topography of the site in real-time. Robust vanadium flow battery technology is high-performing and does not degrade over time. Installed in 2018, this is one of the most technologically advanced solar installations in the nation.
Following the sun for big gains
Active tracking can produce 15-20% more power than a fixed-tilt array of comparable size. The NX Horizon system used here allows each row to operate independently to optimize solar production.
BATTERY ENERGY STORAGE
Powered by solar, day & night
Vanadium-flow battery energy storage works in tandem with solar energy to reduce energy costs by ‘peak shaving’ – drawing power from solar panels or batteries instead of from the grid during expensive peak times of the day.
COMMUNICATIONS & CONTROL
Using AI to optimize performance
The power plant uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimize energy production and consumption. A central energy management system integrates data from sensors on the solar panels and on-site weather stations. A predictive algorithm uses this data to optimize the performance of each row, individually.
The four on-site weather stations provide data and protect the system, by automatically rotating horizontally in case of high water, 60° westward in case of high winds, and 90° vertically to shed snow during winter storms.
The 1.1 megawatt MUM solar power plant combines active tracking technology and battery energy storage. The five-acre solar array has 3,150 solar panels in 35 rows.
This cutting-edge system is designed to follow the sun throughout the day, allowing each row to operate independently to optimize solar production and to continue to function in case of damage or routine maintenance.
In the middle of each row, a motor pier holds a motor, a slewing drive, and communications and monitoring equipment. Each row is rotated by a single motor and slewing drive. The motor is controlled by a self-powered controller that communicates wirelessly with a centralized network control unit. The central torque tube, solar panels, and piers are connected together and engineered to withstand the constant movement inherent in an active tracking system.
Vanadium-flow batteries are ideal for large solar power plants because they have a long service life, maintain high performance over time, and are safe. The MUM solar power plant uses 35 Avalon vanadium-flow batteries. Battery discharge is controlled by an integrated AI learning computer that optimizes peak-shaving.
The power plant uses 35 inverters, which are AC-coupled, improving efficiency and allowing for a more flexible system design.
WIND SENSOR STATIONS
The solar array has two wind sensors, or anemometers. During high winds the anemometers direct the system to rotate all of the panels to 60° westward to protect the panels.
STORM SENSOR STATIONS
There are two snow and flood sensors. These use infrared to detect snow levels that impact production, and will direct the panels to rotate vertically to shed snow. They also detect high water and will direct the panels to rotate horizontally in case of flooding.
COMMUNICATIONS & ELECTRICAL CENTER
Communications & electrical service equipment are housed here. Five 400 amp feeder panels, one 1600 amp main service panel, a step up transformer, and four network control units form the heart of the system. An underground private fiber optic network connects the solar field to the campus’s central energy management system.
POLLINATOR PROJECT & AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH
The grounds of the solar power plant are seeded with native, flowering prairie species selected to create a habitat for bees, monarchs and other pollinators. Additionally, plots of land between array rows have been designated for research by the university’s regenerative agriculture program.
Solar Solutions for Universities
The design decisions behind the MUM Solar Power Plant
Download our white paper to learn more about how educational institutions can use solar and storage to optimize energy production & consumption. In our paper, we model Maharishi University of Management’s energy load profile and outline the engineering and technology behind their peak shaving power plant.
DOWNLOAD TO LEARN MORE ABOUT:
- Unique challenges for universities with on-site renewables
- Managing energy loads for educational institutions with solar & storage
- Intelligent use of AI in solar power plants including predictive algorithms, machine learning, control systems, and feedback
Empowering students with energy innovation
To help the university capitalize on the full value of their groundbreaking power plant, Ideal Energy offered the following services:
- Securing a state-funded grant for research into the performance of the power plant
- Designing & developing informational kiosks and educational brochures
- Assisting professors in designing classroom material around the technical features of the project
- Implementing a comprehensive PR & communication strategy
Our shifting energy paradigm is opening extraordinary possibilities for the future, and we’re engaging students with hands-on experience in innovative energy solutions.
During construction, Ideal Energy created an internship program to engage the University’s student body in all aspects of the installation from design to construction to marketing. We also worked with professors and students to plan and implement an on-site pollinator project and arrange plots of land between array rows for researching regenerative agriculture techniques.
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*Estimated 25 year utility savings are above and beyond the installed system cost with incentives, and are based on current utility electrical rates and predicted future utility rates. Production data is based on NREL and PV Watts.