Mobile microgrids by Footprint and Schneider make Time’s best inventions list

Nov. 11, 2022
Footprint's 'footprint' is visible after earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados — and even in Ukraine — as it brings solar microgrid power to those in need.

Utilities send crews to restore power following disasters, but they can’t always be everywhere quickly enough. Desperate situations arise in places where medical care, water and other necessities become scarce.

That’s where the nonprofit Footprint Project steps in, bringing in solar mobile microgrids to deliver power where it’s most needed.

Now the nonprofit organization – along with partners Schneider Electric and Microsoft – is getting national recognition.

Time magazine has named their solar mobile microgrids to its List of Best Inventions of 2022.

Footprint's 'footprint' is visible after earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados — and even in Ukraine — as it brings solar microgrid power to those in need., including in Puerto Rico after an earthquake, in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida, in Ukraine under siege, after tornados in Kentucky and at COVID-19 clinics on the US-Mexican border.

Initially a bootstrap organization, Footprint received a significant boost when energy technology giant Schneider Electric took notice of its work last year and decided to lend its resources.

Then Microsoft stepped in too with its Azure software, which enhances the functioning of the microgrids and allows their management via the cloud.

Another advancement occurred when the partners began using smart inverters so that a mobile microgrid could continue to function without a member of the team on-site at all times. This allowed Footprint and Schneider to scale their disaster relief work.

“The ability to monitor our fleet remotely, collect key data to enhance the system’s performance, and alert our field teams to maintenance needs is all vital to effectively deploy cleaner energy for communities in crisis,” said Will Heegaard, operations director for Footprint Project.

 Watch Footprint and Schneider discuss their work during Microgrid 2022.

Footprint uses clean energy – in fact, its motto is “Build Back Greener” – which helps displace the fossil fuel backup generators often used during disasters. 

“When disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires occur, often resulting or exacerbated by our changing climate, the traditional response has been to mobilize diesel generators – which is analogous to fighting fire with fire,” said Samantha Childress, solutions architect manager, Microgrids North America at Schneider Electric. “We’re incredibly honored to receive this recognition from Time for our collective work with the dedicated and innovative teams at Footprint Project and Microsoft to develop an energy system that delivers clean and reliable energy for communities that are significantly hamstrung in disaster events.”

The solar mobile microgrids were among 200 technologies to make the list. Time magazine solicited nominations from its editors and correspondents around the world, and through an online application process, paying special attention to growing fields – such as the electric vehicle industry, green energy and the metaverse. Time then evaluated each contender on a number of key factors, including originality, efficacy, ambition and impact.

Do you have a story to tell about microgrids? Microgrid Knowledge is seeking speaker applications through Dec. 21, 2022 for Microgrid 2023: Lights On, which will be held May 16-17, 2023 in Anaheim, California.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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