The Future of Microgrids

Last month I had the honor of attending the unveiling of Schneider Electric’s microgrid at their North American Boston One Headquarters in Boston, Mass. A microgrid is a local energy grid that can operate independently of the traditional energy grid, making it more efficient and reliable. It can be powered by generators, batteries and renewable resources like solar, wind or gas.

Why is this important? It is projected that over the next forty years, our nation’s energy consumption will almost double, and energy producers will need to cut CO2 emissions in half. Additionally, as reported by Ted Koppel of CBS News in his book “Lights Out,” our nation’s power grid is more susceptible than ever to attacks. To address these issues, we must be extremely efficient and diligent with how we produce, transport and manage our energy resources. The Boston One campus is Schneider’s living laboratory to respond to this challenge, demonstrating how a facility can be resilient by creating its own renewable energy and manage grid power more effectively.

At Faith Technologies, we fully understand the benefits of microgrids, and have made a corporate commitment to build a microgrid demonstration site. Faith’s microgrid will show our partners and community leaders what is possible with this emerging technology. Utilizing solar power, battery storage, and clean fuel, the microgrid will create enough electricity to power the campus at Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton, Wisc., along with returning clean power  to the utility grid. Once operating, we will be able to demonstrate to our corporate and community partners the economic, security and environmental benefits of microgrids in our communities. The benefits will include:

  1. Economic Benefits: Utility transmission line loss (upwards of 15%), peak demand loads during high production, and hot days all drive up energy costs for our corporate partners. Creating, storing and managing power can save large energy consumers 20–30% in energy costs. These savings can improve corporate earnings, and be reinvested into plant expansions or employee wages.
  2. Security Benefits: In mission critical facilities such as data centers, hospitals, and emergency management centers, resiliency and a highly reliable energy supply is vital. In the event of natural disasters (i.e. cyber-attacks or physical attacks), a microgrid is able to disconnect from the main grid in an islanding effect and operate on its own.
  3. Environmental Benefits: Reduction in power usage from coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants (that are only about 35% efficient) and increasing the efficiency of the power that is used will drive down CO2 emissions. Optimal use of onsite renewable resources such as solar, wind and hydrogen create clean power to manage loads.

We believe it is our responsibility to preserve our natural environment by redefining what is possible for energy efficiency. The goal is that this project will become a living lab for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, and will captivate world-wide industries seeking advanced methods of resilient, sustainable energy sources. Once completed this fall, we will welcome all to come and see the future of power production and management.