From Sharelynn Moore’s point of view, interest in microgrid solutions is at an all-time high. Moore, executive vice president and chief business development and marketing officer for Bloom Energy, recently spoke with Elisa Wood, editor-in-chief of Microgrid Knowledge, about how she sees the future of the microgrid industry.
Moore cited the need for improved reliability and resiliency as one of the primary drivers of microgrid adoption. “Not only are extreme events increasing, they're extending in duration.” Microgrids provide reliable backup power in these situations when traditional solutions typically fall short, she said.
Business models are also driving interest in microgrids, according to Moore. She’s found that an increasing number of companies are investing in microgrids not only to reduce their load and meet business needs but also because they find value in sending any excess power they’ve generated to the grid.
Microgrids and the grid: better together
Moore also noted that some companies are looking for off-grid solutions to meet their business needs. In cases where a company needs to add electric capacity, but the utility grid is not able to deliver or not able to deliver on the company’s timetable, a microgrid can be a good solution.
But Moore doesn’t see off-grid microgrids as a significant trend.
“I really believe that for our customers, for us as microgrid providers and for the utility customers, we're all better together,” Moore said.
She explained that increasing the interactions between behind-the-meter microgrids and the grid will ultimately help all parties involved.
Coming soon: the tipping point
When asked what’s slowing the pace of microgrid adoption, Moore pointed to the cumbersome planning, permitting and interconnection process associated with bringing a generation asset online.
Yet Moore is hopeful about the future. “If you look at the classic adoption curve, I still think we're relatively into early adopters and quickly getting to critical mass,” she said, adding that she thinks the tipping point will come in the next one to three years.
Hydrogen is coming but not yet
On the other hand, Moore does not expect to see hydrogen becoming a viable in the near future.
In addition to its work in the microgrid space, Bloom’s electrolysis technology generates green hydrogen by using renewable energy to split water molecules.
“I think that's very much a longer term proposition,” Moore said, adding that Bloom sees clean hydrogen being generated by two sources – renewable electricity and nuclear.
If excess energy generated by renewables can’t be transported to meet load in another location, it can be converted to green hydrogen.
In the same way, Moore said, hydrogen can be made by converting excess thermal steam from nuclear plants.
In both scenarios, hydrogen will provide a way to store excess energy rather than building new transmission lines or just letting it go to waste.
Collaboration is key
Moore also predicted that the microgrid industry would move into an era of even greater collaboration in the near future.
As microgrids become larger and more complex, Moore said, “I think you're going to see more and more collaboration from all of us involved in microgrids, and I know I look forward to working with the industry to help advance the cause.”
Learn more about microgrids at Microgrid 2023: Lights On!, which will be held May 16-17 in Anaheim, California.