Energy-Water Microgrid Opportunity Analysis at the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 Facility

Jennifer Daw, Alicen Kandt, Jordan Macknick, Julieta Giraldez Miner, Katherine Anderson, Neal Armstrong, John Adams

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Microgrids provide reliable and cost-effective energy services in a variety of conditions and locations. There has been minimal effort invested in developing energy-water microgrids that demonstrate the feasibility and leverage synergies of operating renewable energy and water systems in a coordinated framework. Water systems can be operated in ways to provide ancillary services to the electrical grid and renewable energy can be utilized to power water-related infrastructure, but the potential for co-managed systems has not yet been quantified or fully characterized. Energy-water microgrids could be a promising solution to improve energy and water resource management for islands, rural communities, distributed generation, Defense operations, and many parts of the world lacking critical infrastructure. NREL and the University of Arizona have been jointly researching energy-water microgrid opportunities at the University's Biosphere 2 (B2) research facility. B2 is an ideal case study for an energy-water microgrid test site, given its size, its unique mission and operations, the criticality of water and energy infrastructure, and its ability to operate connected to or disconnected from the local electrical grid. Moreover, the B2 is a premier facility for undertaking agricultural research, providing an excellent opportunity to evaluate connections and tradeoffs at the food-energy-water nexus. In this study, NREL used the B2 facility as a case study for an energy-water microgrid test site, with the potential to catalyze future energy-water system integration research. The study identified opportunities for energy and water efficiency and estimated the sizes of renewable energy and storage systems required to meet remaining loads in a microgrid, identified dispatchable loads in the water system, and laid the foundation for an in-depth energy-water microgrid analysis. The foundational work performed at B2 serves a model that can be built upon for identifying relevant energy-water microgrid data, analytical requirements, and operational challenges associated with development of future energy-water microgrids.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages38
StatePublished - 2018

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-7A40-71294


  • ancillary services
  • distributed generation
  • energy-water nexus
  • microgrid
  • REopt
  • resilience


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