Power outages have always been a part of electric utility service. While some industries such as healthcare have building codes that mandate emergency backup for life safety, most industries and local communities have reluctantly accepted that reality or resorted to diesel backup generators which are expensive and harmful to the environment when they run. The good news is, with ongoing advancements in technology and facility design, these are no longer the only options. Society and the economy can no longer prosper with the risk of widespread power outages due to severe weather, equipment failure, grid stress, and even attacks on critical infrastructure. Microgrids present a simple and more cost-effective approach to onsite backup power.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there were 14 climate and weather events in 2019 generating $1B or more in damage. This fact, along with the aging grid infrastructure has increased interest in how microgrids can supplement the grid in outage prone regions including California with the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events or in areas with less reliable grid support.
Crisis-proofing operations before the next event, whether it is a national health crisis, wildfire, severe weather event, or grid failure, requires proactive business continuity planning and resilient mission critical support – especially when it comes to power systems. Microgrids are an becoming a more attractive, cleaner, and less expensive alternative to address long term outages when downtime just isn’t an option.
While microgrids have been around for some time to address local power resiliency, they are now also being recognized for their ability to supplement grid capacity during times of high demand. Today’s microgrids are much more than just a backup power generator. They are smart assets, leveraging data analytics to automatically operate when needed without human intervention. Network operations centers continuously monitor performance and intelligent software can mine data for operational patterns and respond programmatically and efficiently. More than just a collection of energy resources, a microgrid can island and operate autonomously carrying full power load for a local facility when the power is down. Microgrids also complement the broader grid by supplementing grid capacity during times of high demand or intermittent supply.