Microgrid Market Seeing New Types of Projects, Customers Amid Ongoing Global Pandemic

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Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge editor-in-chief, interviews Mark Feasel, president, smart grid, North America at Schneider Electric. In this video, Feasel discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the microgrid market, new types of projects that are being developed — and the new types of customers that are becoming interested in microgrids.

 

The energy industry — and most every industry — has needed to switch gears, update paths and reevaluate strategies to best serve customers since COVID-19 took hold in 2020.

“We are continuing to see a world in which resiliency is changing,” Feasel said.

For healthcare, resiliency is needed beyond the hospital environment in smaller clinics and healthcare practices, he said.

For consumer goods, resiliency has taken on heightened importance. Supply chains have been under stress because of the impact of COVID-19, and many warehouses, especially those that are storing food items or other temperature-sensitive goods, can’t afford to have a power outage. “How are we providing the resiliency that they need to operate to make sure our stores are stocked with food and other goods?” Feasel asked.

COVID-19 has created other shifts for the microgrid market as well.

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A few years ago, in the case of an emergency, large spaces such as football stadiums seemed best suited for people to shelter in. They were obvious prospects for a microgrid. But Covid has safety experts now thinking about smaller, more decentralized spaces as shelters.

“In light of Covid, we don’t necessarily think about putting a lot of people in one space,” Feasel said. “We might think about how to put smaller groups of people [together], distributed around a community.”

Meanwhile, the microgrid consumer continues to appreciate the microgrid industry’s move toward less complex development and operation practices.

“We’ve got to think about simplifying what happens on-site. We have to think about moving complexity away from the site and moving it to the cloud,” Feasel said.

Moving this microgrid “complexity” to the cloud means companies can offer their microgrid customers access to greater computing power and more sophisticated analysis, which opens up the possibility of lowering costs.

This trend toward simplification encompasses the physical microgrid as well. Feasel pointed out that, in years past, a microgrid construction site might be littered with pallets of electrical equipment. “We’ve been able to move a lot of that work into the manufacturing environment, and, in doing so, really minimize the impact on the site,” he said.

But there are still “simplification” hurdles to solve in the microgrid market, he added, including regulatory and initial capital challenges.

“That’s the real importance of developing energy-as-a-service models. Being able to take those risks away from consumers to make it extremely easy to embrace decentralized, decarbonized, digitized energy — making it as easy as buying energy from their existing utility today,” Feasel concluded.

Join us for the next Microgrid Knowledge conference: Microgrid 2021: The World Awakens to Microgrids, May 11-June 3. 

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