Russelectric Sees Solar and Storage as Keys to Sustainability, Cost Reductions in Microgrid Market

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Tim Kelley, director of renewable microgrids at Russelectric, cites new drivers for microgrids. More and more customers are installing them to achieve sustainability and cost reduction goals. Solar and storage make those goals viable.

Russelectric has been in the microgrid market for nearly 50 years. The company provides microgrids to commercial customers, hospitals, data centers, airports, campuses, and mid- to large-sized industrial customers.

“We have tens of thousands of them operating all across the country,” Kelly said in an interview at Microgrid 2019 with Ken Silverstein of Microgrid Knowledge.

Kelly described resiliency as a core driver — still — in the growing microgrid market.

“Historically, what’s driven our business is the need for resiliency. So, if you’re a hospital, the lights have to stay on, the operating room has to stay on, so that market has always been there, and it’s going to be there,” Kelly said.

What’s changing is that new commercial industrial customers seek microgrid technology to achieve sustainability or financial goals.

Kelly thinks microgrid market drivers will increasingly become a mix of all three: resiliency, sustainability and cost-reduction.

Most of the microgrids Russelectric worked on in the past used diesel generators and cogeneration. In the last year or two, Russelectric started adding solar and storage to its systems.

“What’s really new is the cost reductions of solar and storage,” said Kelly. “You’ve got more new renewable technologies, which let facilities achieve their decarbonization goals and also help them save money. A facility can achieve decarbonization goals and help save money.”

Kelly said he is “very optimistic” about the future of microgrids, in part because of the increasing need to update energy infrastructure.

“A lot of them (Russelectric customers) are grappling with, ‘Well, I’ve got this 30-year-old diesel generator, and I want to replace it; I want to replace it with something cleaner,” Kelly said. “We see that across the board for our customer base.”

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