Last Minute Holiday Gifts for Microgrid Aficionados

Dec. 22, 2019
We couldn’t find socks with microgrids on them or chocolates shaped like solar panels. But in poking around the marketplace we did discover a few items that are likely to evoke a grin from microgrid aficionados over the holidays.

We couldn’t find socks with microgrids on them or chocolates shaped like solar panels. But in poking around the marketplace we did discover a few items that are likely to evoke a grin from microgrid aficionados over the holidays.

So if you’re stumped while shopping for your friend who tends to lapse into passionate discussions about islanding and energy reliability, consider our list.

Energy Transition Planning: “Real Talk” Flash Cards ($40)

ProtoGen Energy Aligned, Quakertown, PA company, did what all good entrepreneurs do: identified problem and came up with a solution. The problem? Most of the world has no idea what those of us in energy are talking about most of the time. ProGen’s solution is an attractive deck of flashcards that define in common speak many of the energy industry’s most brow furrowing terms. From anaerobic digester to virtual net metering, it’s all here.

Kevin Wright, ProtoGen co-founder and president, told us he came up with the idea in the wake of the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign. The grassroots effort resulted in numerous municipalities in southeastern Pennsylvania issuing solicitations for development of specific, local plans for transitioning to renewable energy. In meeting with municipal and Sierra Club stakeholders, it became evident to Wright that there was a need to better educate the public about the economic, regulatory, and technical implications of undertaking such a transition. That requires teaching at least the rudiments of energy speak.

The cards are available for purchase here.

Downtime on the Microgrid by Malcolm McCullough (MIT Press — $35)

I had the privilege to read the pre-published galleys for this book, and my first thought upon finishing was: “The microgrid industry now has its bible.” McCullough provides a complete look at what’s what and who’s who in 234 highly readable pages, written to reach a range of audiences, not only energy professionals but those interested in architecture, interaction design, cultural studies of infrastructure and the social history of technology.

Described by the author as “a long read on the microgrid meme,”  Downtime offers a positive message for the end of one decade and the start of another, “a bright spot in dark times” McCullough writes: “The 2010s are when local electricity became viable and vital too. The more that the planetary and political climate worsened, the more I found this happy fact impossible to ignore.”

As a gift this will have to be an IOU because it will not be released until March 17, 2020. But preorders are available now through MIT Press.

Wiser Energy Smart Home Monitor ($299)

The home microgrid, or nanogrid, is on the rise, giving households greater control over their energy supply. But energy production is only half of the equation; we don’t want to waste any of the power our solar panels are producing or our batteries and electric vehicles are storing, especially while the nanogrid is in island mode during a grid outage. 

So it’s great to see home energy management systems becoming more sophisticated and user friendly. Schneider Electric, a big player in the microgrid market, describes its Wiser Energy system as a perfect companion to home microgrids.

Installed (by an electrician) on the home electrical panel, it monitors energy use in real time down to the appliance, helping you spot inefficiencies. 

Wiser helps solve what Rich Korthauer, Schneider’s vice president of final distribution business, calls the “awareness challenge.” We don’t think about energy efficiency unless we’re reminded. The Wiser display works on cell phones, so you can monitor your usage from afar, and it sends recommendations about your energy use. 

Wiser also helps you spot an appliance that may be failing, as evidenced by its excessive energy consumption. As Korthauer pointed out, it’s nice to know to replace your heat pump before the hot July 4th day when your guests arrive and the air conditioning suddenly conks out.

And as more people age at home, smart home energy systems offer a way for family to check on aging relatives. There, yes, grandma put on the coffee pot this morning.

Courtesy of Schneider Electric

Like the Nest thermostat, Wiser is a learning system, one in this case that grows to understand the power consuming appliances in your home. “It will probably start with your bigger loads; for example, the bigger energy users, like your refrigerators, your heating and air conditioning. But then over a period of time it will go all the way down to a vacuum cleaner, or to the Keurig coffee maker, or even a can opener,” Korthauer said.

For those homes with solar panels, Wiser also monitors the output of system to help the household align energy production with use. In addition, Wiser helps calculate the return on investment for the solar installation.

Wiser is available through Loews, Home Depot, Angie’s List and Home Advisor. More details are here.

Wiser is one of several smart home energy management systems now on the market. Some of the others are: Home Energy by Sense; Neurio Home Energy Monitor by Neurio; Smappee by Smappee; Engage by Efergy; and Vue Smart Home Energy Monitor by Emporia Energy.

Our last recommendation is a shameless plug! Give the gift of a registration to Microgrid 2020 and get $400 off, offered through January as an early registration discount. The microgrid industry’s largest annual event, this year in Philadelphia, Microgrid 2020 offers two full days for microgridders to dive deeply into their favorite topic and network with prominent leaders in the field.

These are the gifts that caught our attention. Feel free to add your own recommendations either in the comments below or on the Microgrid Knowledge LinkedIn Group.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is the editor and founder of She is co-founder and former editor of Microgrid Knowledge.

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