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Our 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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member photo Although microgrids are finally getting the recognition they deserve as part of smart, modern grid, they've actually been around for decades - on islands an in remote areas, where diesel generators have been combined with storage and renewables to get the least cost, most robust solution possible. The key is economics, and the value propositions for microgrids vary greatly across applications. Here's a nice summary of microgrid value propositions - blog.homerenergy.com/microgrid-value-propositions/ .
# Posted By Marilyn Walker | 1/23/13 11:02 AM | Report This Comment as Foul/Inappropriate
member photo Great link. I appreciate your comments and thanks for posting!
# Posted By Sarah Battaglia | 1/28/13 6:54 AM | Report This Comment as Foul/Inappropriate

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