Year in Review: Growth of Microgrids for Resilience

microgrid 2017 year trend resilience
Credit: Casey Horner

Microgrids continued to grow in popularity this year, driven largely by concerns over resilience in the wake of natural disasters.

A report prepared early in the year for Advanced Energy Economy showed that global annual revenue from microgrids increased 29% between 2015 and 2016.

The 2017 Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator survey of facility and management executives from a dozen countries found that 91% of respondents indicated energy security as the most important driver for investments in the US and Canada.

“Smart, sustainable buildings served by distributed energy resources and energy storage can provide the added security that building owners are looking for around the globe,” Rod Rushing, president of Building Solutions North America for Johnson Controls, said publicly at the time.

Since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, that country has been quietly moving toward microgrids, distributed generation, and smart energy systems, Reuters reported this year. The coastal city Higashi-Matsushima has an independent transmission grid, solar panels, and batteries that can keep power running for a minimum of three days if disaster were to strike again.

Municipalities aren’t alone in turning to advanced microgrid systems. Companies are also investing in systems that go well beyond a diesel-powered generator. When wildfires blew through Northern California in October, Stone Edge Farm winery near Sonoma was able to continue operating even though the area had been evacuated. As Microgrid Knowledge reported, their system allowed the winery’s team to put their microgrid into “island mode” to irrigate the grapes remotely.

Natural disasters underscore microgrids’ potential. Ellen Shenette, manager of EDF Climate Corps noted in a November blog post that hurricanes this autumn in the US caused around $150 billion to $200 billion in damage. “This year’s storms showed the vulnerability of centralized electric grids, and the need for a modernized system,” she wrote.

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