The Power of Pooled Microgrids

May 22, 2014
Terry Mohn, CEO of General MicroGrids and chairman of the Microgrid Alliance (MGA), offered the vision of pooled microgrids during the 2014 Microgrid Workshop offered May 19 by the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid. He describes two very different paths for microgrids, in very different parts of the world.

A microgrid by itself offers great advantages. But what if we pooled microgrids?

Terry Mohn, CEO of General MicroGrids and chairman of the Microgrid Alliance (MGA), offered the vision of pooled microgrids during the 2014 Microgrid Workshop offered May 19 by the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid.

Together, these pooled microgrids – even if not built adjacent to each other – could provide power and services to the wholesale power markets. So the microgrids would not only serve the consumers within their borders, but also export energy where it is needed. This helps the larger grid and creates an additional value for the microgrid.

For this reason, and others, all new microgrids in the US should incorporate smart grid technology, he said. Even if they are initially built as remote microgrids, they may someday be connected to the utility grid. So they should be ready with the two-way communications abilities engendered by smart grid technology.

Technological challenges exist to realizing the full value of microgrids within the US electrical distribution network now. So we may see such pools emerge first in developing countries – where General MicroGrids has focused much of its effort so far.

About 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity. So the opportunity exists to build microgrids from the outset in these areas.

If we’re going to do a really good job of bringing the energy cost down at a facility, the first thing we have to do is provide energy efficiency,

Mohn said microgrids could emerge in these areas the way cell phones did.  Villages have skipped development of wired telephone systems and gone straight to wireless. The same can be done with electricity – skipping the mega grid with its power plants and transmission lines and building a system from scratch with microgrids. These microgrids will be designed to act as transmission does in the US – as a way to add system capacity.

In addition to incorporating smart grid technology, all microgrids should incorporate energy efficiency practices, he said.

“Energy efficiency is a fundamental component of building a microgrid. If we’re going to do a really good job of bringing the energy cost down at a facility, the first thing we have to do is provide energy efficiency, he said. “We have to look through the entire facility and say what are the inefficient devices and find way that we can replace them or retire them early.”

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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