For Stability and Sustainability, the World Needs Microgrids
Moving away from fossil fuels means electrifying more of the things we use. But just electrifying them is not enough. To take advantage of clean energy, like solar and wind, grids need to handle variable energy supplies. That means power must come from multiple sources. Microgrids, which are small free-standing power sources provide this and, what's more, their redundancies can keep providing power in disasters.
"The highly digital modern world also demands a more reliable grid, capable of providing high-quality power to facilities like hospitals or data centers, where even brief brownouts can cost money or lives," David Roberts and Alvin Chang report for Vox. The recent hurricane season demonstrated just how deadly power outages can be.
"Most microgrids, especially in wealthier nations, are grid-connected — they are embedded inside a bigger grid, like any other utility customer," Roberts and Chang write. But, importantly, they can "island" themselves, meaning if there is some problem with the larger grid they can separate themselves from it. Roberts and Chang explain that the solution can be as simple as a hospital maintaining a generator or as sophisticated as networked renewable energy that pulls and stores power from various locations and makes adjustments on the fly in changing conditions.