Microgrids: The New Craze in Energy Efficiency?

microgridsOur country has been experiencing a number of different energy developments over the past couple decades.  Natural gas, wind & solar energy, and hydraulic fracturing are just a few of the innovations that are becoming a part of our everyday lives.  But one other novelty is slowly stealing the spotlight.

Microgrids are a modern technology that represent a small-scale integrated energy system.  A microgrid is responsible for electricity generation and energy storage, and can be used either in conjunction with the utility’s existing power grid or as an entirely separate entity.  A few major benefits resulting from the use of a microgrid include lower demand on transmission infrastructure, fewer line losses, and the ability to rely on local power sources.

Microgrids may still face a few barriers in certain areas, such as cost and integration, but they are slowly becoming more widespread.  In a recent report from Pike Research, five major markets taking advantage of this innovation consist of campus, military, remote, community, and commercial & industrial sectors.

The United States Department of Defense (DOD) has become one of the most recent administrations to express interest in the use of microgrids.  Looking to improve energy security, the DOD is attempting to produce over 600 megawatts of energy by 2018.

In addition to limiting the amount of fossil fuels used to generate electricity, senior research analyst Peter Asmus describes additional benefits, “They can also be used to help integrate renewable energy resources (such as wind and solar) at the local distribution and grid level.  Simultaneously, microgrids enable military bases – both stationary and forward operating bases – to sustain operations, no matter what is happening on the larger utility grid or in the theater of war.”

The California Energy Commission is also taking part in microgrid development.  It recently approved $1.6 million in funding for the University of California in San Diego to advance their microgrid improvements.  Generating more than 90% of its own energy, the university has already reported over $800,000 per month in energy savings!

The Windham Hospital and The William W. Backus Hospital, both located in Eastern Connecticut, are requesting $1.5 million from the Microgrid Grant and Loan program to begin production on their campuses.  Representatives from both hospitals explain the main benefit of a microgrid to be the guaranteed power that will be available to keep all medical equipment running effectively and continuously.

Whether it be a military base, a university campus, or a local hospital, microgrids are becoming a popular development that can provide immense benefits for any site that chooses to take advantage.  Increased reliability, significant savings on monthly energy bills, local electricity generation, and a reduction in carbon footprint are all important aspects to consider.  Are you interested in the development of microgrids?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sarah Battaglia
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Sarah can be found on LinkedIn and Google+.

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  • http://ronwagnersrants.blogspot.com Ron Wagner

    Microgrids are indeed the way that the world’s grids should be set up. Overlapping, integrated,and redundant. With mobile generators, that are stationed regionally, as a backup for hurricanes and other disasters.

    Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty old coal plants, and dangerous expensive nuclear plants. It will fuel cars, trucks, vans, buses, locomotives, aircraft, ships, tractors, air conditioners, engines of all kinds. It costs far less. It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It is used to make many products. It lowers CO2 emissions, and pollution. Over 4,400 natural gas story links on my free blog. An annotated and illustrated bibliography of live links, updated daily. The worldwide picture of natural gas. Read in 67 nations. ronwagnersrants.blogspot.com

  • Sarah Battaglia

    Although they do not guarantee power, microgrids will definitely help keep customers out of darkness during major storms (as you mentioned). More and more cities are developing these microgrids, but it will still be some time before we really see a change.

    Thanks for your comments, Ron!

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