So far, this year is a microgrid letdown. Here is what’s next

August 14, 2020 by  
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So far, this year is a microgrid letdown. Here is what’s next Sarah Golden Fri, 08/14/2020 – 00:45 I had high hopes for microgrids this year. The cost has fallen, out-of-the-box solutions are more common and businesses and homes understand the expense of losing power. All signs pointed to this being the year of the microgrid.  Yet here we are, at the start of the new fire season, and we’re just launching programs and soliciting proposals designed to add more resilience. What happened? For one thing, regulation moves slowly. The California Public Utilities Commission fast-tracked a rule-making process in September to help accelerate the deployment of microgrids. With that process still underway, the regulator issued a short-term action to deploy microgrids in mid-June . You know, just a few weeks before the start of this fire season.  It’s also tough for major utilities to gear up new technologies — and they’re juggling a lot: clean energy targets; COVID-19 complications; and in some cases, bankruptcy. Pacific Gas and Electric, California’s largest utility and the originator of 2018’s deadly Camp Fire, is simply not on track to ensure clean energy reliability. Instead, the utility is planning to deploy mobile diesel generators . This stop-gap measure is low-tech and dirty — but it should keep sections of communities online in a way that deployments of customer-sited energy assets wouldn’t. To make matters worse, the coronavirus is slowing the deployment of microgrids. Shelter-in-place orders have delayed permitting, construction and interconnection of new projects. The first half of the year was the slowest period for microgrid deployments in four years, according to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie .  Speeding up microgrid deployments  Although 2020 has hit some hiccups (to put it mildly), California is well-positioned to see more microgrids soon.  Utilities are mandated to increase energy reliability while meeting clean energy requirements, and service providers are motivated to secure major utility contracts . The state is also working to address key barriers to accelerate deployment for customer-sited energy projects, according to Wood Mackenzie microgrid analyst Isaac Maze-Rothstein.  Because modular microgrid components are all built primarily in factory, the construction timelines — and total system costs — can be significantly decreased.   Programs such as the California Public Utilities’ Self-Generation Incentive Program encourage more customers to install energy storage at home, and California’s SB 1339 aims to streamline interconnections, which will help bring more microgrids online and keep costs low. Additionally, more out-of-the-box microgrid solutions are coming, simplifying the whole process.  “We are seeing the emergence of modular microgrids over the last year,” Maze-Rothstein said in an email. “Because the components are all built primarily in factory, the construction timelines — and total system costs — can be significantly decreased.” Examples include Scale Microgrid Solutions , Gridscape Solutions , Instant On and BlockEnergy . The value of resilience  A growing body of research is working to quantify the cost of inaction.  We know outages — from extreme weather, natural disasters, physical attacks and cyber attacks — are becoming more frequent. And they’re expensive. Weather-related outages alone cost Americans $18 billion to $33 billion each year between 2003 and 2012, according to the Department of Energy . One of last year’s planned outages in California cost the local economy an estimated $1.8 billion . At the same time, the technologies that would keep the lights on are maturing — and providing a potential new source of revenue. As energy assets become more interconnected and grid operators look for added flexibility, energy asset deployments look increasingly economically attractive. Analysis from Rocky Mountain Institute modeled the economics of solar-plus-storage systems for the approximately 1 million customers affected by last year’s planned power shutoffs in California. It found that those customers would have enjoyed a combined net benefit of $1.4 billion, a calculation that takes into account the value of the energy assets’ contribution to the grid.  In a separate report, RMI showed the falling cost of batteries coupled with better energy management technologies often make the payback period of solar-plus-storage shorter than solar alone.  The calculations show the investments pay back faster for commercial customers, as the economic impacts of shuttering businesses are easier to quantify. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote Because modular microgrid components are all built primarily in factory, the construction timelines — and total system costs — can be significantly decreased. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Microgrids Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Equipment from Gridscape, one of several companies developing modular microgrids. Courtesy of Gridscape Close Authorship

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So far, this year is a microgrid letdown. Here is what’s next

Grid grist and microgrid musings

July 8, 2018 by  
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The collective we should be focusing far more attention on innovation within the transmission system.

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Grid grist and microgrid musings

Puerto Rico sets the stage for microgrids

June 5, 2018 by  
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The island has been largely left in the dark for the past eight months. Enter the mini-grids?

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Puerto Rico sets the stage for microgrids

Why Wells Fargo’s cleantech incubator is a hit

March 26, 2018 by  
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The bank’s Innovation Incubator has a secret weapon: a national laboratory.

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Why Wells Fargo’s cleantech incubator is a hit

Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and the climate change angle

March 26, 2018 by  
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Is the scandalous corruption of our political campaigns also undermining our response to the environmental crisis?

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Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and the climate change angle

How Walmart redesigned a sustainable supply chain

March 26, 2018 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. On this episode: What it took for Walmart and EDF to build a decade-long partnership.

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How Walmart redesigned a sustainable supply chain

After the storms, it’s microgrid season in the Caribbean

November 15, 2017 by  
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Hurricane-battered islands are getting serious about renewable energy to provide resilience after a disaster.

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After the storms, it’s microgrid season in the Caribbean

Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy

September 29, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Maria has left swaths of Puerto Rico without power – and millions of people could have to go without electricity for months . The storm’s devastation has stirred new interest in obtaining more energy from clean sources like solar or wind . Energy experts say increasing renewables and transitioning from centralized grids to microgrids could boost resilience as Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands weather storms. CARICOM, a Caribbean nation consortium, already hoped to hit 47 percent renewable energy by 2027. The recent hurricanes could act as a motivation to work for that goal. Caribbean countries in the past have relied mostly on imported fossil fuels , which are expensive both for the islands and for the environment . And storms can cripple power lines. Related: Puerto Rico could be without electricity for months due to Hurricane Maria There is an alternative, according to The Washington Post. Renewable sources, coupled with battery storage , powering small grids could offer more resiliency. Fossil fuels would offer backup—at least initially until battery storage becomes more affordable. The microgrids could be connected to a main grid but could also be isolated. With this new setup, the Caribbean could benefit from trade winds and solar panels. According to renewable energy expert Tom Rogers, who works at Britain’s Coventry University, solar systems in the tropics can “generate over one and a half times more than exactly the same PV system” installed in a location with a higher latitude like Europe. Rogers told The Washington Post, “You look at islands like Dominica, Anguilla, and other islands affected by the recent hurricanes, I’ve spoken to a couple of the utilities, and they say they would prefer to rebuild using distributed generation with storage, and just trying to reduce the amount of transmission lines. Because that’s where their energy systems fail. It’s having these overhead cables.” Via The Washington Post Images via Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/Puerto Rico National Guard and NOAA Satellites Twitter

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Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy

A microgrid grows in Brooklyn — is this the future of energy?

July 11, 2017 by  
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A closely watched prototype from startup L03 Energy has transformed a local neighborhood into a test hub for trading power locally.

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A microgrid grows in Brooklyn — is this the future of energy?

A microgrid grows in Brooklyn — is this the future of energy?

July 11, 2017 by  
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A closely watched prototype from startup L03 Energy has transformed a local neighborhood into a test hub for trading power locally.

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A microgrid grows in Brooklyn — is this the future of energy?

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