Last month, Microgrid Knowledge and the International District Energy Association (IDEA) hosted the Microgrid 2017 Conference in Boston. The sold-out event drew some 450 attendees — triple the total from a year earlier — including electric utility representatives, campus power operators, regulators, developers, financiers, consultants, and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firms.
This diverse group is helping reinforce the impact microgrids have already had in the energy and reliability space, and it is providing a strong indication of future integration.
When the industry was discussing microgrids five years ago after Hurricane Sandy, the conversation was around defining the hurdles to microgrid deployment this time around. Later, that conversation shifted to discussing potential strategies. Today, we are past hypotheticals; we are living in an age of microgrids.
A common theme among Microgrid 2017 presenters was proven microgrid solutions. We have come a long way since Hurricane Sandy, and this conference helped reinforce that microgrids are viable solutions.
The sold-out event drew some 450 attendees — triple the total from a year earlier.
Solutions discussed at the conference focused on addressing four critical microgrid models: Technical, Financial, Regulatory, and Business. During one workshop, attendees unbundled the technical challenges to deploy a microgrid. As an industry, we are defining best practices, which includes assisting in breaking down the complexity in deploying a microgrid.
During that workshop, the presenter unbundled the technical challenges to deploy a microgrid. Successful microgrid deployments involve project participation of large groups of people with diverse backgrounds. Understanding when to keep the right people engaged at the right time can help alleviate some of the problems that arise during the technical challenges.
Over the course of three days, attendees also heard presenters discuss how they took their concept and made their microgrid a reality. In addition, more state regulators acknowledged the need to get the grid ready for the future. The Rhode Island Public Utility Commission, for example, made an exciting announcement about a grid-modernization plan, illustrating how it is working to ensure Rhode Island is ready for the future by deploying a modern grid.
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Electric utilities also are positioning themselves for the modern grid, as illustrated by a presentation from Commonwealth Edison CEO Anne Pramaggiore, who discussed her vision on how microgrids will be a platform for the future.
I expect 2018 will be a year in which we will see an increase in microgrid deployment and activity. As I noted earlier, regulators are reviewing policies to ensure their states are ready for the evolving energy market. Moreover, electric utilities are identifying locations on their systems to install microgrids that will increase power reliability, provide resiliency, boost system capacity and integrate renewable energy.
Participants at the Microgrid 2018 conference should expect to be able to connect with partners who can help them overcome obstacles in designing, building, and financing a microgrid. It will also be the place to hear the latest policy and industry updates. I hope to see you at the next conference in Chicago in May!
Chris Evanich is manager of microgrids at S&C Electric.