The Curious Thing About a Community Microgrid…

Steve Pullins, Vice President, Energy Solutions

Communities have a lot of stakeholders, but often with common goals. Communities want to be safe, stable, prosperous, and neighborly. In recent years, we have added “sustainable” to those common goals for many communities. Now, that may mean different things to different stakeholders, but generally it means that the community wants to exist 100 years from now with many or all of those same common goals.

If one were to “create” a community with many stakeholders and common goals from scratch, the process would probably be messy. The complexity of gaining consensus on community goals requires diligence and patience.

The same is true for building an energy microgrid for community resilience. Here, I am using resilience as a first cousin to sustainable. Resilience in a community can mean different stakeholder objectives. Some may want life-sustaining services (pharmacy, oxygen, food) to be resilient for vulnerable neighbors in the face of major storms. Some may want critical public safety and health services to be resilient for the entire community in the face of downed power lines and debris-filled streets. Some may want important job-centered businesses to be resilient in the face of emergencies so that income in the community is minimally impacted.

To incorporate a diverse set of important community goals (i.e., “messy”), the microgrid will likely be messy as well. Messy means multiple distributed energy resources vice a single energy resource because a single resource can leave a community vulnerable to loss. Messy means distributing the energy resources across critical facilities because the community needs those services even on loss of the local neighborhood distribution grid. Messy means burying critical sections of the local neighborhood distribution grid because overhead lines are vulnerable to storms. Messy means actively managing all distributed energy resources and load interfaces with real-time controls, load forecasting, and resource dispatch scheduling.

So, for communities with multiple goals around resiliency and sustainability, we probably need to serve them with complex microgrids. Messy.

This is complex, but doable.

Originally published on LinkedIn