Canadian Manufacturing

Electrical Business: Are microgrids a key to grid resiliency?

by Kelsey Adkisson   

Electrical Business
Operations Research & Development Supply Chain Energy Infrastructure Canada Energy microgrids power outage weather

“It’s hard to put a price tag on resiliency.”

Battery storage at Energy Northwest’s solar array. Batteries are a critical component of microgrids, which also often include backup generators to withstand emergency outages during a range of weather conditions.

The aging energy grid is being pushed to the breaking point. Power outages from extreme weather alone cost anywhere from $2 billion to $77 billion per year. And some isolated communities still rely on diesel generators for electricity, since powerlines don’t reach them. Grid expansion isn’t an option—in most cases, the economics don’t make sense.

Where the main grid falls short, such as in isolated communities or when the lights go out from extreme weather, microgrids are a solution for more resilient power. These decentralized, self-sufficient energy hubs can run independently or connect to the larger grid. Yet one lingering hurdle is microgrid design. Getting the mix of power sources right involves complex trade-offs between risk tolerance, cost, and going green.

New research from a team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) shows that resilient, “hyper-local” microgrids provide economic value when designed with the right mix of power sources. In a series of studies and a presentation at the European Wave & Tidal Energy Conference, the PNNL team predicted the role that both large and small microgrids can play in the drive toward renewable and resilient power.

This article originally featured in Electrical Business. Read the full version here.



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