After the hurricanes the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. has seen this year, there’s been a lot of talk about stabilizing and improving the power grid to contend with major events. One idea is that of microgrids, which are used throughout Alaska and in other states to power business, industries, and communities, some of which are extremely remote and difficult to connect to the main power grid.
What Is A Microgrid?
A microgrid is a localized energy grid that operates independent of the power grid. It is connected the main power grid, but can be disconnected if need be. The main purpose is to stabilize power supply to that specific location; when the main grid dips or fails, the microgrid can pick up the slack.
The microgrids in Alaska are powered by a variety of solutions: wind, solar, hydroelectric, diesel generators, batteries, and even flywheels are all used. In many cases, more than one source of power is used. The state has been investing in microgrids for over 50 years and can provide a lot of guidance industries, communities, and states interested in stabilizing their power supply.
Microgrids can be as large or small as you need them to be. Small, site-specific grids can be particularly helpful for hospitals, universities, military bases, and other key service providers, allowing them to keep operations going when the main grid goes down, such as after some of the hurricanes we’ve seen this year.
Resurgence Of The Microgrid
Microgrids aren’t a new concept, they just fell out of favor when centralized grids became a more cost-effective solution. Why would communities invest in their own microgrid when the energy companies were providing reliable power at less cost?
Now, however, microgrids are getting a second look, particularly in areas that are hard-hit by natural disasters, where it is difficult to maintain a traditional grid, and by businesses and communities that want to invest in renewable sources of energy. Technology has improved; costs have come down, and the demand for power reliability has increased. Modern society can’t function without power, which is forcing business and government leaders to consider how best to provide that power, in any way possible.
The microgrid may just be the answer.