Microgrids serve the greater good – and they are attracting serious business. That’s the message nearly 400 industry leaders and experts will hear over the next three days in Chicago, where they will gather for Microgrid 2018.
“Microgrids have become serious business,” said Elisa Wood, the editor-in-chief of Microgrid Knowledge, in opening remarks today. “Some of the largest utilities in the U.S. and Europe are here. The largest global energy technology companies are here. Major market players are here. Why? Because they know that microgrids are the future of the electric industry.”
Microgrid Knowledge, event host, chose Illinois for the event because it is an epicenter of microgrid innovation. Chicago soon will become home to the first utility microgrid cluster, with development of the Bronzeville Microgrid by Commonwealth Edison. The utility will connect or ‘cluster’ its microgrid with another operated by the Illinois Institute of Technology. Clustered, the microgrids will be able to achieve great efficiencies than if they act singularly.
Illinois is also home to a microgrid developed by Ameren, which is being touted for achieving cybersecurity and technological feats no others yet have.
Wood praised the foresight shown by the state of Illinois in supporting microgrid projects. But she said such awareness is not present everywhere. Groups critical of microgrids have described them as “gold-plated technology”– a premium service for the few.
“This stems from the wrong notion that microgrids are merely back up power for those communities or businesses lucky enough to have them in a crisis. And yes, they are that, and that’s important, but they are not merely that,” she said, in remarks opening the conference. “When microgrids are connected to the grid, as they typically are in North America, they help make our energy supply — the energy supply for all of us — cleaner, more efficient, better managed, and lower cost.”
Microgrids do this by providing services to the central electric grid when they are not needed by their hosts for backup power. Since power outages occur infrequently, microgrids are often at the ready to supply energy or offer services to improve flow of power on the central grid.
Wood also cited several other ways microgrids serve “the greater good.”
“Consider community microgrids during storms. The grid goes down, and hospitals, 911, police, water treatment — everything that relies on electricity — which is pretty much everything — is gone, for days, sometimes weeks, or months, as in Puerto Rico. But not if there is a community microgrid,” she said.
She added, “Step outside the US. Consider parts of Africa where there is no electric grid. Imagine having to walk for hours each day just to get clean water. Think about what it means to that village if a microgrid is installed to pump and treat water.”
In addition, Wood noted the important role microgrids play as the U.S. grid faces cybersecurity threats.
“We know enemy actors are trying to attack our electric grid all the time now. We’ve been able to keep them at bay. But what if we can’t? We’ve based this entire economy, this entire society, on an interconnected grid, which is vulnerable to domino-like cascading failure. For that reason alone, we cannot install microgrids fast enough.”
Being held at the Loews Chicago O’Hare, May 7-9, Microgrid 2018 includes a selection of nearly 30 lively panel discussions and informative presentations on a range of microgrid topics, from utility business models to blockchain to monetizing resiliency.
Here are just a few of the agenda highlights.
- Keynote address by Brien Sheahan, chairman and CEO of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) on Tuesday, May 8
- A newly added session on the growing number of airports installing microgrids, accelerated by the 11-hour power outage at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in December
- The Microgrid Finance Connection, to be launched at Microgrid 2018, will bring together microgrid developers with financiers in private pitch sessions. Developers of ten projects have qualified for meetings, representing over $30 million in proposals
- Four Chicago-area microgrid tours: Shedd Aquarium, S&C Electric, the Illinois Institute of Technology and Ameren (Waiting List)
For more information, contact Kevin Normandeau, publisher of Microgrid Knowledge: [email protected] (508)259-8570. This article is available for reproduction without permission.