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As Power Outages Increase, Microgrid Research Offers Promise

June 16th, 2014 by Rebecca Norman

A recent US National Climate Assessment Report indicates that every region of the nation has shown effects of climate change, from increases in wildfires to massive power outages.

According to Bryan Hannegan, associate laboratory director for Energy Systems Integration at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “It’s more vital than ever that the nation have a secure, reliable energy infrastructure that can respond to extreme weather events, integrate sustainable sources of energy onto the grid, and keep the lights on.”

The Energy Systems Integration Facility is the newest building of the Energy Department’s NREL, where researchers are testing the latest concepts and devices that can intelligently manage energy from batteries, electric cars, wind, solar, and biofuels. This facility offers the ideal testbed for the “microgrid,” a system that can disconnect from the grid and continue to provide power, and then reconnect to the grid without disruption.

NREL Electrical Engineer Greg Martin, who works with microgrids, said the nation is moving toward “more mobile, more deployable, transportable” energy systems, which will be particularly useful for disaster relief and military applications.

The trend in microgrid research is to provide integration, so that consumer needs are linked with energy resources without disruption of the grid.

Advanced technologies like rooftop solar, battery storage, and plug-in vehicles could potential integrate with existing grid or fossil fuel resources and the utility grid to allow for microgridding. Smart integration of these renewable and fossil fuel components can minimize expensive fuel use and allow for cleaner, more efficient electricity delivery.

The White House recently issued a report calling for more investments in the electric grid and identifying strategies to modernize the grid to prevent power outages.

Read the full NREL news article