It’s creating a lot of buzz these days, but the microgrid industry is hardly a new movement. Microgrids have been around at least 140 years, going back to when Thomas Edison and his Illuminating Co. built the Pearl Street Station in lower Manhattan. Although known as the first commercial central power plant in the U.S., it basically generated 600 kW at capacity. More than a few of today’s microgrids easily exceed that.
We’ve grown from one to dozens to now hundreds of microgrids, and market forecasts are predicting we’ll eventually see thousands and have an industry valued at close to $100 billion. With all of this momentum and long-term success, it’s easy and desirable to think in more complicated and sometimes nuanced terms.
But I am reminded every day that microgrids are still a curiosity to much of the population. Microgrids are not built into everyone's distributed energy know-how or projections into the future. Many people are fascinated by the basics and want to learn more.
I know this because Microgrid Knowledge’s best-read story list of 2023 includes an evergreen article entitled “What is a Microgrid?” Nearly as well read is a piece on “What a Microgrid Is Not.” The distinctions matter because as this industry appeals to more and more business owners, military chiefs, health care CEOs, mayors and residential homeowners, it will be paramount to understand both the basics and where we can go from here.
This thirst for knowledge about microgrids fits right into our name and into our upcoming Microgrid Knowledge 2024 Conference April 22-24 in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Marriott Waterfront. We will have plenty of experts there speaking on complex topics from system engineering and integration to installation challenges and navigating the interconnection queue. But we also will have end-user customers – who relied on the experts – talking about their projects at universities, data centers and electric vehicle charging stations. They will offer wonder and appreciation that experts sometimes cannot afford to show.
We’re thrilled to learn more ourselves while providing education to others, both on the expert and novice side of things. Microgrids truly are for everyone, even if it takes time and education to get there.