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What Is a Microgrid & Why Are They the Future?


Our nation is facing a problem, and it may be one that you haven’t heard all that much about: our electrical infrastructure is aging, and increasing demands have caused it to buckle under the strain. We’re seeing the consequences of it all around the country: just this past year New York’s world-famous Times Square found itself shrouded in darkness for several hours due to a blown transformer. In California, the aging grid has been blamed for at least one disaster, and customers across the state continue to battle with rolling blackouts that can last for days or even weeks.

These two states are not the only ones facing issues with electrical stability. Metroplexes all across the country are facing the reality that their power lines are aging, connections are wearing out, and transformers and other equipment are rapidly approaching the end of their useful lifespan. That’s going to mean a lot of issues for customers everywhere, and that’s forced people to start thinking about how they’re going to consume electricity in the future. According to some energy industry experts, the answer lies in a new technology known as “microgrids.”

What Are Microgrids?

A microgrid is a small, localized power grid that can be controlled independently and autonomously once they become separated from the main public utility grid. If a grid remains connected to a public grid during a power outage, any power generated during an outage will still feed back into the public grid, resulting in a potentially dangerous situation. Thus, power supplies need to remain offline, even if they would normally generate all of the energy you would need. With microgrids, the ability to “island” away from the public grid gives you the ability to control and power your own small electrical grid even if the macrogrid (the public utility grid) in your area remains down.

Many people are starting to embrace the idea of microgrids when it comes to their home. If you think about it, your home is very much a grid all of its own. Start at your electric meter: once energy passes through your meter, it enters your home and the power company relinquishes control over it to you. You can then do whatever you’d like with this energy, including power your refrigerator, keep your home cool or warm, use it to power a TV, charge your cell phone, and a seemingly countless number of other things.

However, your connection to your main electrical grid doesn’t have to be the only electrical energy source in your home. The energy you produce yourself remains on your side of your electric meter, and thus you can still choose to use this energy however you would like. Solar panels, emergency generators, and battery backup systems all function as energy supplies that can provide your microgrid with power, and that gives you an unbelievable amount of flexibility and added dependability to your home’s power supply. With a properly-supplied microgrid, you even gain the ability to keep your microgrid (your electrical system and everything connected to it) running in the event of an outage.

Setting Up a Microgrid

You don’t necessarily have to have something like solar panels or a battery backup to think of your home as a microgrid, but the key is giving your home the ability to “island” away from public utilities during an outage in order to turn the power back on. This means your first upgrade is likely going to be a new “smart meter” that has the ability to temporarily sever the connection and leave your microgrid entirely self-contained. At this point, you are free to plug in a backup generator, your standby generator can fire up, or your solar energy system can turn back on. Many smart meters are also prepared for “net metering,” meaning they can run backward if you supply power back to the public grid using something like solar panels.

However, microgrids do not need to be localized to just your home. In some cases, multiple homes or even entire towns and communities can section off into a smaller grid that is entirely self-contained. For example, microgrids in Fort Collins, Colorado are being used to section off entire segments of the town in order to try and create districts that produce the same amount of energy they consume for ultimate self-reliance.

If you’re interested in taking control of your power stability and gaining the ability to cut off from the public power grid, talk to the experts at Mel Carr Electric by calling (518) 500-3042 and find out how we can help you!

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