Harvey’s Devastation Shows the Need for Distributed Energy, Microgrids During Disasters

Harvey, the hurricane-turned-tropical depression that’s devastated the Texas Gulf Coast, has also driven home the value of off-grid energy systems, from backup generators to microgrids — and the dire results of failing to have them ready to prevent disasters.

Since Friday, 18 of H-E-B’s stores have successfully kept themselves up and running in this mode, feeding their generators from underground natural gas pipelines that haven’t been destroyed by winds or floods.

This feature has made natural gas the fuel of choice for most of Texas’ microgrid systems, as compared to the diesel fuel that powers most backup generators. Enchanted Rock has built up a fleet of about 130 megawatts of these on-site generators, and has been able to run them in a way that makes them cost-competitive without subsidies, Thomas McAndrew, the company’s founding partner and managing director, said at Greentech Media’s Grid Edge World Forum 2017 conference in June.

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