PHILADELPHIA — A collaboration of researchers, manufacturers and economic development officials are embarking on a groundbreaking demonstration project for smart-grid, net zero energy buildings called the GridSTAR Center— a Smart Energy Campus initiative at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia.


Spearheaded by Penn State with support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), the GridSTAR Net Zero Energy Demonstration Structure is the first phase of the GridSTAR Center and will serve as a valuable hub for workforce training, building performance testing, energy management research and “smart” microgrid modernization deployments. Strategically located at The Navy Yard — which serves as a shining example of energy-related innovation and research — the structure is slated for completion this summer.

“The GridSTAR Net Zero Energy Demonstration Structure will create a live, interactive demonstration of electrical systems technologies, serve as a hub for hands-on education and training, and provide a rich infrastructure for data and research,” said David Riley, project leader and Penn State associate professor of architectural engineering. “In leveraging the talented pool of Pennsylvania-based public and private sector leaders, the GridSTAR Net Zero Energy Demonstration Structure offers tremendous potential to further drive the adoption of energy efficiency, solar energy and energy storage systems in our residential communities.”

The demonstration structure utilizes industry-leading construction techniques and an innovative strategy for energy generation, management and coordination within the host microgrid. Using modular construction techniques, the wall systems for the structure were assembled by Simplex Industries at its climate-controlled Scranton, Pa. facility. A team of building product manufacturers is supporting the project through product donations and technical expertise, including photovoltaic roofing, fiberglass and spray foam insulation, foundation drainage and waterproofing systems, insulated vinyl siding and gypsum board from CertainTeed Corp.

PIDC, the master developer of The Navy Yard, provided the microgrid infrastructure and managerial collaboration in partnership with the GridSTAR Center. The Navy Yard’s Smart Energy Campus is a collaboration of businesses, universities and government, focused on making The Navy Yard a national center for energy research, education and commercialization. By actively engaging all of The Navy Yard’s assets — its people, infrastructure and buildings — the Smart Energy Campus is developing and deploying net generation solutions in energy efficiency, smart grids, and related engineering and IT fields.

The highly instrumented building will be connected to a microgrid test loop within the larger unregulated microgrid of The Navy Yard. Components will be able to be easily installed and removed using “plug and play” adaptations that will also be connected to the PJM electricity market and operate in response to real-time price signals.

The modular components of the structure will be delivered to The Navy Yard in May, with on-site construction and interior finishing continuing through the end of June. Once complete, the structure will be used as a research facility, a classroom laboratory and a showcase for ultra energy efficient living.

The additional phases of the GridSTAR Center will include a solar training facility and electric vehicle (EV) charging station, which will provide a comprehensive infrastructure to further optimize solar power generation and energy storage.

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