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Cuyahoga County Proposes 'Microgrid' Electrical Power For Businesses

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish is proposing a new county electric utility to offer power to businesses in small-scale “microgrids” around the Cleveland area.

The new utility would not have to offer electricity to all Cuyahoga County energy customers, Sustainability Director Mike Foley said. Instead, it could focus on providing reliable power in specific business districts.

“The idea is there is value to having an area where, if the larger grid goes down, we’re going to be able to keep a local grid up, especially in the commercial sector,” he told county council at a hearing Wednesday.

The proposal is wider in geographic scope than the Downtown Cleveland microgrid idea that was part of the region’s Amazon headquarters bid. The county and city are still talking about a possible downtown microgrid, Foley said.

Possible microgrid locations discussed at the meeting include the roofs of businesses around Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport, Broadview Heights and the planned Sherwin-Williams research and development center in Brecksville.

Landfills or property owned by land banks could provide space for solar farms powering the grids. In 2018, the county unveiled a 17-acre solar farm at a former landfill in Brooklyn.

The county would solicit bids from contractors to run the microgrid program, Foley said.

Council members questioned whether the county could be legally liable for power failures, whether businesses really wanted this service and whether the proposal would compete for customers with Cleveland Public Power and FirstEnergy.

County council took no action on the legislation Wednesday.

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