Tiny electric grids helps states weather extreme storms. After a number of severe weather events, including super storm Sandy, where millions of people were left without electricity, there is an effort underway to look at microgrids where distributed energy can be applied to small scale areas in the event of major grid outages. A number of states are currently looking at such programs, as well as the US Department of Energy, and funding is being made available to research and develop such microgrid projects.
Focus of Microgrid Projects
Military installations, hospitals, and educational institutions are key beneficiaries of such microgrid designs as they can become more self-sufficient with power needs in the event of major grid outages. Also included in the list of key services favored for microgrids are pharmacies, grocery stores, and gas stations. Both New York and Massachusetts are offering $40 million for microgrid projects.
Utilities are somewhat uneasy about these prospects as it offers the potential for them to lose some of their customer base. Utilities, however, are in the prime position to develop microgrids, although some states envision private third-parties getting involved as well.
We believe very strongly that while utility-owned microgrids are an important first step, allowing competition in the microgrid space would lead to faster deployments, better products and lower prices. The utilities can certainly participate in the competition It’s not an effort to phase them out, it’s an effort to bring new players in.” — Abigail Ross Hopper, Director, Maryland Energy Administration
A more complete assessment of the microgrid projects and actions are on the Scientific American website.