Microgrids for the Greater Good: Serving People by Guaranteeing Energy

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From electrifying remote African villages to bringing clean power to the US grid, microgrids serve the greater good, as discussed here by Michael Kilpatrick, vice president of power systems at S&C Electric. Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge editor-in-chief, interviewed Kilpatrick at Microgrid 2018.

The interview took place before Kilpatrick led a panel discussion with developers and utility executives, who provided real-world examples of how microgrids serve the greater good.

In this video Kilpatrick describes some of the exciting work in the microgrid space done by the companies on the panel, like SolarGen Technologies and Veriown. These two businesses are taking microgrids to remote villages and changing the lives of those who live there.

“So places in Africa where they don’t have energy, they are putting in solar and energy storage and using technology to unlock things like life-saving water,” Kilpatrick said.

Mark your calendars: Microgrid 2019 will be held in San Diego in May.

Another example is Enel X, which is transforming low-income housing by providing microgrid technology in New York City.

Meanwhile, Ameren and Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) — both utilities in Illinois — are showing how microgrids can improve the complex US grid by creating cleaner and more efficient electricity. Ameren, in partnership with S&C Electric, recently completed a microgrid facility in Champaign, Ill. at Ameren’s Technology Applications Center (TAC). And ComEd is developing what will be one of the first utility microgrid clusters in Bronzeville, Ill.

As for how S&C Electric contributes to this growing market, Kilpatrick pointed out the company has been an innovator in the electric space for a 100 years.

“We’re mostly a products company that grew up with the utility businesses, and in the last 15 years, we’ve been integrating both energy storage and microgrids into the grid,” he said. 

S&C specializes in unlocking the technologies — because microgrids are not simple, he said.

Read more about the Microgrid 2018 panel, Microgrids for the Greater Good

The Bronzeville ComEd project and Ameren’s microgrid underscore the sophistication of multi-resource microgrids. “They show the complex relationships and how to integrate energy storage, but also how you control and how you protect the systems — when to deploy and when not to deploy,”  Kilpatrick said.

Microgrid 2018 attendees were given the opportunity to tour the newly completed Ameren microgrid on the last day of the event to get a first-hand look at what goes into implementing and running a complex microgrid.

So, what do businesses — as well as households — get out of microgrids coming on the grid?

For some businesses even a momentary outage can be extremely costly. Consider the financial losses faced by Delta Airlines after the power went out in the Atlanta airport last year for 11 hours. Or consider the danger to senior citizens or people with special needs when a power outage occurs. To many, a power outage is far more than just an inconvenience; it can be life threatening.

“A five-minute outage in your residence isn’t a big deal, but a two-day outage or more is a problem,” Kilpatrick concluded. To avert such outages, utilities “need to be able to invest in their grids, to allow renewables in, and allow for a more reliable system.”

Michael Kilpatrick is vice president of power systems at S&C Electric.

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  1. Robert Relf says:

    I will be having a meeting with Jason Lander, Melbourne Australia next week on continue discussion on setting up a cyber risk strategies in Australia. From your POV this I understand coming from IPERC.
    My past communications has been with Wanda Reder.
    I am the past chair of Risk Engineers and member of SESA – Engineers Australia linked to INCOSE.
    We have been setting up a consortium of companies to set the different risk levels of energy suppliers that may become the default settings. SandC was originally involved in support of our initial submission, but I believe may be the best leader in Australia.
    Please forward me an email and I will keep you informed on developments.