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Micro Grids

Updated on May 5, 2014

Green Alternative Energy - Micro grids

Micro grids are small-scale, self-balancing electricity generation, storage, and distribution systems, or networks, that integrate various distributed energy resources. They have the ability to stand alone from the larger grid during a utility outage and isolate themselves with little or no disruption to the loads within the micro grid. This makes possible an autonomous operation, with the ability to seamlessly reconnect and function again as part of the whole. When the grid is up, solar panels, wind mills, and other small scale generators (connected to Central Hudson or their own energy provider, a macro grid) are automatically disconnected when the grid goes down in order to avoid electrocuting utility workers who are working to restore power.

The last few years have brought an increasing awareness and demonstration of how fragile our electric grid is. While this country pioneered the advance of electricity into the world, it is now a failing system in physical decline, and subject to natural catastrophe and increasing threats, ( not the least of which is Fortis, a Canadian corporation which has bought out Central Hudson, located in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York). Probably, the biggest impetus for change locally (to micro grids) comes from storm victims of Irene and Sandy. The military has also been a leading force in the move to micro grids. In addition to reducing the amount of fossil fuels consumed to create electricity, micro grids can be used to integrate renewable energy resources, such as wind and power, at the local distribution grid level, both stationary and moving to sustain operations no matter what is happening on the larger utility grid.

Several micro grids are already complete or near completion in the United States. Among the first adopters are educational institutions (NYU, Cornell University, University of Calif.-San Diego, and the U.S. Dep’t of Defense.) Now Connecticut is implementing an $18 million dollar micro grid pilot program that will get its power from renewable, fuel-cell and fossil-fuel sources delivered to the project areas 24/7 without having to connect to the larger grid at all. The recipients will include police stations, supermarkets, emergency shelters, gas stations, fire departments, and hospitals. In addition, the governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, has appropriated another $30 million for more micro grid projects over the next two years.

What each community now needs is a single, knowledgeable (an engineer?) individual, with vision and an intimate understanding of the surrounding environment, to gather information about grants, applications, organizations, and someone who will know how to harness the best in renewable energy technology and electricity storage innovation. That individual might even contact the governor of Connecticut.

Of course, we still need to maximize the benefits of any system by reducing our electrical consumption. This can be done in any number of ways. Install compact fluorescent lights instead of incandescent lights. Compacts use one-quarter of the amount of electricity for the same light output and last ten times as long as incandescence. Turn all appliances off when they are not in use. TVs, DVD players, and computers are called phantom loads and are on all the time when they appear to be off. Putting all appliances on a plug strip they can be fully turned off when not in use. When buying new appliances, look for energy star models with the lowest energy consumption. For every dollar saved by reducing electricity usage, 3-5 dollars in the equipment of a system can be saved. Let’s make a commitment to end the waste.

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