North America is one of the global leaders in microgrid capacity. In fact, this past year nearly 600 new microgrid projects moved off the drawing board and into planning and deployment phases.
So what’s behind this U.S. microgrid surge – especially for a technology that was once considered useful only for bringing power to the developing world.
Microgrids are miniature versions of the centralized electric grid that dispatch, distribute, and regulate the flow of electricity. Many microgrids can operate and switch between grid-connected and grid-islanded modes, but it’s their ability to be ‘islanded’ from the main electrical grid which is their key distinguishing factor.
That ability to continue powering commercial and industrial operations through grid outages is proving increasingly valuable to organizations as grid outages increase in frequency and duration.
And, for an economy such as that of the U.S., which is increasingly dependent on electricity for digital and high-tech, power outages aren’t just inconvenient. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. economy loses $150 billion each year from outages.
Also, the emergence of the microgrid as a viable producer of electricity has come in large part due to the limits reached by North America’s aging power grid. The rising costs of full grid power, cybersecurity concerns and a shift to more severe weather patterns that lead to power failures have all played into the microgrid movement.
One recent trend has been utilities becoming part owners in microgrids by partnering with third parties. This mixed model provides grid electricity during normal operation, but during an outage, the grid power becomes the property of the third party, usually a private community or town.
There are now 4,475 microgrid projects around the world with a generating capacity of 26,769 megawatts of power.
Want to know more about microgrids? Tonex offers Microgrid Certification Training, a 4-day course that helps participants to understand microgrids, their operation and control as well as energy management principles applied to microgrids.