As we compiled this year’s list of most-read Microgrid Knowledge stories, we were intrigued to see what captured — and kept capturing — our readers’ attention. Storms, wildfires, innovations, blockchain, energy storage, solar and the city of Pittsburgh were among the winning topics.
Companies in the top 10 articles include ABB, Consolidated Edison, Demand Energy, Duquesne Light, Enchanted Rock, Enel, ESS, GI Energy, Hitachi, LO3 Energy, Navigant Consulting, Northern Reliability, NRG Energy, PECO, S&C Electric, Siemens, Schneider Electric, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Stone Edge Farm, TECO, Tesla and SimpliPhi Power.
Here are the top 10 most-read Microgrid Knowledge stories for 2017.
When Hurricane Harvey knocked out power to Houston in August, convenience stores and gas stations remained open thanks to an unusual microgrid system designed by Enchanted Rock (ERock). The Texas-based company installs natural gas generators at commercial sites, which it aggregates into virtual power plant microgrids.
The storm, which dumped a year’s worth of rain in a week on Houston, proved to be the first major test for the ERock microgrids. The generators islanded from the grid and provided back-up power for their host sites. Buc-ee’s and H-E-B stores are participating in the program.
The stores and fuel stations provided essential products and services — including water, food and fuel — that helped residents survive and cope with the hardship. Even the National Guard relied on their power, making a home base of one store.
When asked, “What does a microgrid cost?” ABB’s Nathan Adams responds, “What does a house cost?” Just as houses span from builder basic to celebrity mansion, microgrids range in size and sophistication. Or as S&C Electric’s David Chiesa puts it: “If you’ve seen one microgrid…you’ve seen one microgrid.”
So there is no quick and simple price to give a prospective customer — which may explain why this analysis from 2016 continues to garner strong readership.
“If you’ve seen one microgrid…you’ve seen one microgrid.” — David Chiesa, S&C
It continues to be a surprise to many when they learn that their grid-connected solar panels can _not_ keep the lights on during a power outage. Maybe that’s why large numbers continue to click on this article, although it was first published in 2016.
Minus a battery and advanced inverter, solar panels do you no good in a power outage. However, if the panels are within an advanced microgrid, it’s another story. They act as part of an array of generators, islanded away from the outage and orchestrated by a microgrid controller, “the brain,” to provide you with power even as those around you are in the dark.
The microgrid industry is in search of innovative business models that make it easy on the customer to own distributed energy. Consolidated Edison and GI Energy offer a model where they pay customers for hosting batteries through leases. It is designed to spare customers the confusion of navigating complex wholesale markets to make money from a battery.
Three decades ago when the Energy Storage Association tried to galvanize support it drew 35 people to the room. In 2017, at its annual conference in Denver, there were near 2,000.
Sure, they came because battery prices are dropping and energy storage pairs nicely with oh-so-popular solar. But something bigger is afoot here, something the size of the power grid.
New advanced microgrids are proving themselves again and again. But this one captured so much attention because of the unusually dire circumstances under which it was called upon. A wild fire raged nearby knocking out power throughout Sonoma, California. But the Stone Edge Farm microgrid kept its electricity on – and therefore was able to keep its irrigation system operating. Even after the occupants were forced to evacuate, they were able to operate the microgrid remotely.
Not so long ago energy blockchain technology had the futuristic feel of flying cars or colonies on Mars. But that has changed in recent months as credible players step in to test the transaction platform.
Among them is energy giant Siemens, which formed a partnership with a startup, LO3 Energy, to figure out how to make energy blockchain work for a Brooklyn microgrid – and demonstrate it for the rest of the world.
To many, the idea of creating a grid of microgrids is somewhere out in the future. Even a pipe dream. But for Pittsburgh, it’s now.
The city is pursuing an aggressive plan to lead on energy, which includes developing a series of connected local energy systems.
“The idea of having an energy plant that is 100 miles away producing energy to make your toast would be left in the 19th century, where it was started,” said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.
“The idea of having an energy plant that is 100 miles away producing energy to make your toast…” –Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.
When a very big international company buys a very small company in an emerging area like energy storage and microgrids, you’ve got to ask, ‘What’s up?’
That’s what happened in early 2017 when Italian energy giant Enel swooped in to take 100 percent ownership of Demand Energy, an entrepreneurial U.S. energy storage company based in Washington state.
Here’s a look inside the 11 microgrid project winners selected March 23 by the New York Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) in Stage 2 of the NY Prize. (Also see our related story about the NY Prize Microgrid Winners.)
Siemens, which is working on several of the winners, said that the model projects will pave the way for additional microgrids in other communities.
“Once again New York and Governor Cuomo have demonstrated their leadership role in the expansion of clean and affordable energy,” said Clark Wiedetz, microgrid director for Siemens Energy Management. “These microgrid solutions involving both the public and private sector can be used as models for other communities across the country. Multiple business structures are being applied in different ways for a variety of customers across six regions of the State – this diversity will help pave the way for microgrids in other communities.
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