Mother Nature Maps Where We Need Microgrids (Again)

Miniskirts_in_snow_stormMother Nature keeps hammering home where we need microgrids.

Last week it happened again. More than 1.7 million electric customers lost power February 23-24 when a major storm swept the Eastern U.S. and Canada, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Assurance Daily.

The storm was an example of the all-to-common pounding of wind, water, ice and snow that underscores the vulnerabilities of the interconnected grid.

Eversource, which serves Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hamphire, was hardest hit in the Northeast. The utility reported that it had to remove 70 large trees and repair 100 broken poles and 30,000 feet of overhead line. In all, more than 89,000 Eversource customers lost power. In the Southeast, lights went out for more than 400,000 Duke Energy customer. And in Canada, Hydro-Quebec reported 250,000 outages.

This follows a blizzard that knocked out power in 14 states in late January and an El Nino storm that left 243,000 California and Arizona customers without lights around the same time.  Thunder storms shut off power to 369,000 across eastern U.S. February 15–16. And 378,000  New Englanders lost power from a February 5 snowfall. And those are just some of the weather-related outages over the last month.

It’s not just storms, of course, that lead to power outages.

Technology breaks. In Nevada, NV Energy reported 10,000 customers without power February 28 following what the company described as a “catastrophic failure” of a circuit breaker at one of its substations.

This all makes a good case for microgrids, which can island from the grid during periods of failure and keep the lights on for customers using local energy.

So what’s the next step in advancing microgrids?

Check out the May 19 Microgrid Knowledge conference, “New York and Beyond: Advancing Microgrids Nationally with Lessons Learned in New York.”

To be held in Manhattan, the one-day gathering will bring together microgrid teams, utility leaders, policymakers and investors that are laying the groundwork to make the North American power grid more resilient.

If you’re a business, college, hospital, community or any large energy user wondering how to develop a microgrid, see the newly added session, “Road Map for Developing Microgrids.”  Energy users with experience developing microgrids will offer advice on how to move forward based on their lessons learned.

Registration is now open for the conference. See details here — especially if you’re one of the 1.7 million electric customers described in the chart below.

NE MA outages feb 2015SE power outage feb 2015

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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