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New Grant Will Fund Microgrid Planning Study

Cleveland Foundation to fund CSU, CWRU, County and City collaboration

release date: 3.30.2017

CLEVELAND – America is changing its energy delivery systems to become cleaner and more secure, and Cleveland State University will be leading a Cleveland Foundation-funded study to look at how the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County might benefit from this shift. The focus of the initiative will be to examine how microgrids might enable economic development in downtown Cleveland.

“The Cleveland Foundation has been a leader in bringing partners together to think differently around energy and how to use our assets and local talent to innovate solutions,” said Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “This is another example of collaboration with local partners to advance clean energy as a tool for economic growth and development. Given that no other community has done this to date, this study will help to tease out the possibilities, interest levels, possible costs and impact for our community.”

This effort is timely, according to Andrew Thomas who administers the Energy Policy Center for CSU’s Levin College of Urban Affairs, because microgrids will play an increasingly important role in smart city planning.

“Society is moving away from the traditional 20th century command and control electricity generation and delivery system toward a new model that uses distributed generation, clean energy and smart grids focused around specific communities and their energy needs,” says Thomas, who will serve as the project leader for the study. “Cleveland, Ohio is positioned to leverage microgrid technology into business growth because of its access to cost-competitive natural gas, the existence of district energy systems and the anticipated large-scale development of offshore wind resources. Armond Budish, county executive of Cuyahoga County, encouraged us to start this planning study as he saw a need for forward thinking on grid resiliency and its economic development benefit.”

“We think the next, great work in resiliency for local governments will be around electric, heating, cooling and cyber-secure microgrids that can be protected from severe weather, aging infrastructure problems and intentional and malicious acts of others,” adds Budish. “This grant will help us put together a lot of smart people locally who can help our region drive these developments.”

“I believe microgrids may provide the potential to be a sustainable solution to help Cleveland meet some key goals in the Climate Action Plan,” notes Frank G. Jackson, mayor of Cleveland.

“The City of Cleveland is interested in energy solutions that improve the resiliency of our grid, use cleaner sources of energy, and provide price stability,” adds Matt Gray, chief of sustainability for the city. 

The Energy Policy Center and Case Western Reserve University’s Great Lakes Energy Institute will collaborate on the project, supported by system engineers from the International Council on Systems Engineering, along with Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland and Cleveland-based district energy utilities. The study will seek to understand the likely cost of development, the resulting costs for ratepayers, and the likely interest in participation by businesses, non-profit institutions and residents. While the study will evaluate the potential for microgrid development in Downtown Cleveland, it will also consider other places in Cleveland that have district utilities, such as University Circle.

A microgrid is a contained energy system capable of balancing captive supply and demand resources to maintain reliability. It is defined by its function and not its size, and could include one building connected to a solar array or hundreds of buildings connected to numerous energy generation sources. The technology can incorporate multiple distributed energy generation technologies to address changing weather conditions and to meet fluctuating demand, making it more efficient and flexible than traditional systems.

“Microgrids are an essential ingredient for a smart and connected city,” adds Alexis Abramson, director of the Great Lakes Energy Institute and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at CWRU. “They enable a robust, optimized, secure and resilient infrastructure, and Cleveland is well-positioned to integrate microgrids into our urban environment.” 


About Cleveland State University

Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution that provides a dynamic setting for Engaged Learning. With 17,000-plus students, nine colleges and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2017 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report. Find more information at

About Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University is one of the country’s leading private research institutions. Located in Cleveland, we offer a unique combination of forward-thinking educational opportunities in an inspiring cultural setting. Our leading-edge faculty engage in teaching and research in a collaborative, hands-on environment. Our nationally recognized programs include arts and sciences, dental medicine, engineering, law, management, medicine, nursing and social work. About 5,100 undergraduate and 6,200 graduate students comprise our student body. Visit to see how Case Western Reserve thinks beyond the possible.

About the Cleveland Foundation

Established in 1914, the Cleveland Foundation is the world’s first community foundation and one of the largest today, with assets of $2.1 billion and 2016 grants of $93.6 million. Through the generosity of donors, the foundation improves the lives of residents of Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties by building community endowment, addressing needs through grantmaking, and providing leadership on vital issues. The foundation tackles the community’s priority areas – education and youth development, neighborhoods, health and human services, arts and culture, economic development and purposeful aging – and responds to the community’s needs. For more information on the Cleveland Foundation, visit and follow us on, Twitter @CleveFoundation and Instagram @CleveFoundation.