If we want a livable climate for future generations, we need to slow, stop, and reverse the rise in global temperatures. To do that, we need to stop burning fossil fuels for energy.
To do that, we need to generate lots of carbon-free electricity and get as many of our energy uses as possible (including transportation and industry) hooked up to the electricity grid. Electrify everything!
We need a greener grid. But that’s not all.
The highly digital modern world also demands a more reliable grid, capable of providing high-quality power to facilities like hospitals or data centers, where even brief brownouts can cost money or lives.
The renewable energy sources with the most potential — wind and solar — are variable, which means that they come and go on nature’s schedule, not ours. They ramp up and down with the weather, so integrating them into the grid while maintaining (and improving) reliability means finding clever ways to balance out their swings.
Finally, recent blackouts in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria highlight the need for a more resilient grid — one that can get back up and running quickly (at least for essential sites) after a disaster or attack.
It’s a triple challenge: We need, all at once, a greener, more reliable, more resilient electricity grid.
But hark! Lo! There is a technology, or a set of technologies, that promises one day to be a triple solution — to address all three of the grid’s needs at once.
We speak of the humble microgrid.
Technically, a grid is any combination of power sources, power users, wires to connect them, and some sort of control system to operate it all.
Microgrid just means a small, freestanding grid. It can consist of several buildings, one small building (sometimes called a “nanogrid”), or even one person (a “picogrid”) with a backpack solar panel, an iPhone, and some headphones.
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19 December 2018
20 December 2018