It’s been a good week for microgrids in Ontario. A second utility has announced plans to move forward with a project, this one a residential microgrid to be installed by Veridian Connections.Wednesday’s announcement by Veridian followed release earlier in the week of a solicitation by Sault Ste. Marie for the next phase in development of its municipal microgrid.
The beginning of the year is a time to consider change and reformation. In our personal lives, we resolve to improve what we can. During the darkness of winter, we consider what new activities we will embark on as daylight increases. Many readers of Automated Buildings go to the AHR show, to learn of new technologies to put into the field this next year. There is a growing acknowledgment of microgrids as an approach that solves many of the most pressing issues in facilities. The technologies are lining up.Is this, then, finally the year of the microgrid?A microgrid is a system of systems that manages its energy generation, distribution, and use internally. A microgrid may or may not be connected to a larger grid. If it is connected, it may choose to buy, or to sell power to the larger grid. Its position of power shortage or surplus may change over time. Many think of a microgrid as something that supports a multitude of buildings, say an industrial park. I am writing this column on a portable laptop that meets all of the definition above.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Company is proposing to develop two electric microgrids – one in Baltimore City and one in Howard County – as part of a pilot program to test the microgrid concept. Microgrids are self-contained , small-scale electric grids with their own power generation source that can power a commercial center independently of the regional power grid when necessary, such as in the aftermath of a severe impact storm.
The term ‘non-transmission alternative’ may sound wonky to some. But to companies that work with microgrids, distributed energy, energy efficiency and the like, it sounds like opportunity.The term refers to installing smaller, local energy technology instead of new transmission infrastracture to alleviate congestion.Several states see non-transmission alternatives as a way to avoid a hefty bill for new high-voltage lines, as high as $50 billion per year over the next two decades by some estimates. In addition, installing microgrids or solar panels in lieu of overhead wire averts battles with communities over marring scenic views.
Not long ago when Schneider Electric’s Mark Feasel would make an appointment to talk to a utility about microgrids, he’d usually get shuffled off to the ‘smart guy’.The smart guy is interesting, but he has no budget and therefore no real influence. Being sent to him signaled the utility’s lack of enthusiasm.But something has changed. For one thing, Feasel has noticed the smart guy is no longer the only one talking about microgrids. At energy conferences, for example, C-suite utility leaders now take the podium.
Commonwealth Edison is championing a proposal, presented to the Illinois General Assembly, that would enable an investment of up to $250 million in six microgrid pilots to support critical infrastructure and facilities within its service territory.ComEd’s customers would be the main beneficiaries of this program. The proposed locations were carefully selected to demonstrate applications of microgrids for multiple types of infrastructure required to operate during extreme conditions. The targeted critical infrastructure includes water, transportation, health care, community and local government.
An increasing number of catastrophic weather events are driving microgrids to quickly become an important new segment of the U.S. energy landscape. Microgrids are undergoing a transformation from a niche application for remote communities to a grid modernization tool for utilities and cities — the momentum of which is expected to take the market to more than 3.5 times its size between 2015 and 2020.
New York is no stranger to the need for resilient, efficient power systems that withstand the wrath of Mother Nature. The increase in severe weather over the past several years has made it necessary for vulnerable regions across the state to find better ways to prepare and protect infrastructure from power outages. Every region of the state is studying the feasibility of installing a community microgrid, thanks to NY Prize Microgrid Competition funds awarded to 83 communities.
At Tuesday’s New York Energy Week Smart Grid Roundtable discussion, experts from various perspectives talked about how smart metering and new data sources are changing power grid operations, customer engagement and revenue structures. Price signals are key to altering customer behavior with regard to energy consumption, but a smart meter alone may not be enough to advance many of the lofty goals promised by the smart grid or microgrids.
Black & Veatch has commissioned a new microgrid system that provides power to its world headquarters using a range of renewables and natural gas. The microgrid, which can produce up to 1,300 megawatt hours of power annually — combines natural gas, rooftop solar, geothermal and battery storage. The new system powers the Rodman Innovation Pavilion — Black & Veatch’s world headquarters — and is the first microgrid powering a commercial building in Kansas. Companies and municipalities seeking to lower their carbon footprint and enhance the resiliency of their electric power supply are slowly but surely migrating toward microgrids.