Microgrids Grow Popular for Storm Resilience in Cities

microgrids resilience cities popularity
Storm in Philadelphia. Credit: Jay Dantinne

The aftermath of hurricanes sweeping the United States is spurring interest in new microgrid development among city officials, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. As a result, localized power grids that can function independently from the main grid are rising in popularity.

As Ellen Shenette, manager of EDF Climate Corps points out in a blog post for EDF + Business, the hurricanes that hit the US this fall alone caused an estimated $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. “Since microgrids are not transmitting electricity over long distances, they don’t require an extensive network of transmission lines, allowing them to get up and running soon after a storm hits.”

In recent years, microgrids have become bigger business in general. Microgrid Knowledge reported that global annual revenue from microgrids rose 29% between 2015 and 2016. And Navigant Research predicted that the worldwide microgrid research market will reach almost $20 billion in annual revenue by 2020.

The five most commonly used classes of microgrids are commercial and industrial, institutional and campus, community and utility, remote off-grid, and military, according to a report by Deloitte. Earlier this year, the US military announced plans to conduct a microgrid demonstration in Michigan as a way to ensure that nearby military centers maintain power during an emergency.

Internationally, Japanese cities have been moving away from large-scale power toward microgrids following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Policies that encourage local autonomy for power generation in the country have been driving the shift, according to an energy professor at Rikkyo University.

After Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, the City of Hoboken worked with EDF Climate Corps and the energy consultant Greener by Design to create a customizable Microgrids Toolkit for scaling projects across cities.

“What we wanted to do with this toolkit was show how to make the most efficient microgrid in a real community where you have stakeholders that are in affordable housing, senior housing, your local pharmacy, private businesses, and city hall,” Gail Lalla, senior project manager at Greener by Design said in a case study of the toolkit. New York State is also working on its own community microgrid program.

“Sandy was our wakeup call,” Shenette wrote. “Fortunately, the technology is out there to make resiliency a reality.”

Vendors mentioned above:

  • Greener by Design
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