How Microgrids Will Change the Way We Make, Deliver, and Use Energy

On Thursday, June 3rd, 2021, as Microgrid Knowledge’s annual conference came to an end, the renewable energy news site held their final session of the month-long event. The seminar “How Microgrids Will Change the Way We Make, Deliver, and Use Energy ” was led by Steve Pullins, Chief Technology officer at Alphastruxure. He used the opportunity to prompt expert panelists on what the future of microgrid technology and system configuration will look like. 

Pullins began by addressing the current goals of the microgrid movement. Improving resilience and reliability in a cost-effective and predictable manner, as well as maximizing the number of objectives into a singular solution, are two of the most essential problems the industry is facing. These challenges are becoming increasingly urgent, as fallout from major storms has stripped businesses of 600 billion dollars this past year, compared to the 100 billion annual average in the past. Plus, the number of major electrical disturbances has more than doubled in the past few years. The energy transition has increased energy prices by 50%, but is simultaneously causing business and state interest in sustainable energy to skyrocket. 

Following Pullins’ introduction, he prompted Ravi Pradham, Vice President of Technical Solutions at Siemens, to elaborate on how he sees the microgrid industry expanding in the future. Pradham explained that the issues mentioned earlier, like reliability and resiliency, are the main forces driving the evolution of microgrid system technology. From his own experience, he has seen the adverse effects of climate events on energy delivery in California and Australia, and believes localization is one of the key components to managing these disasters. Localization of both production and delivery of energy will improve long-lasting power shortages and encourage the adoption of microgrid technologies as they become more accessible. This would mean making microgrid technology more widespread and in closer proximity to local markets. 

Building from Pradham’s ideas, Clark Wiedetz, Chief Sales Officer at GreenStruxure, added to how the climate crisis is affecting the energy industry. These disasters are creating a sense of urgency and have created an influx of new companies seeking to solve these problems. Pre-existing businesses have also begun to set targets and requirements for sustainability in order to meet market demands and save money. Renewable, solar, and wind energy have been prevalent for the past 10-15 years, but with the new focus of sustainable energy on the grid structure, the new challenge is going to be integrating them into one unified network. A key to problem-solving using this model would be selecting assets based on the national region (i.e. using solar panels in Texas, and wind turbines in the Midwest) to optimize energy reliability. 

Marshall Worth, Senior Product Manager and AI at PowerSecure, and final contributor of the event, believed the sky’s the limit when it comes to the future of microgrids. He thought the industry had untapped potential into how we intelligently control assets and achieve objectives. We don’t even know the possibilities associated with these emerging technologies. While this perspective may seem intimidating, it should give us hope for the future of sustainable energy development, and inspiration to be creative and flexible with how we use those assets. Diversifying our utilities, having different levels of control for massive microgrids and individual systems, problem-solving for how these set-ups will work, expanding their capacities, and increasing efficiency as we introduce local energy generation will be a few steps in the right direction. 

At Green World Alliance, we’re covering the present and future of renewable Microgrids. For an article on why the traditional electrical grid is no longer enough, you can follow this link. And although the MicrogridKnowledge conference has ended, the site posts valuable industry-specific pieces daily. You can visit them here.

–Madlen Anderson