Microgrid momentum mounts as storm victims look for solutions
By Jesse Berst
Microgrid momentum continues to ratchet upward. The latest impetus comes from storm victims, especially those in areas such as New Jersey who have lots of grid-tied solar. They are wondering why they can't use their solar panels to power critical loads during an outage.
The answer, of course, is that most interconnection standards mandate that the solar inverter be disabled when the grid goes down. That's to avoid, among other things, electrocuting utility workers who are working to restore faults. But an excellent article from Rocky Mountain Institute argues that we can safeguard utility workers while still allowing solar panel owners to tap into their power when the grid is down. Meanwhile, as if to prove the point, a PBS outlet has produced a short article (accompanying an RMI video) highlighting the microgrid at the University of California, San Diego. During the San Diego blackout of 2011, UCSD was "an island of light in the surrounding darkness" thanks to its microgrid.
If you aren't studying microgrids already, if you don't have a pilot planned already, this would be a good time to get started. We're still a few years from the tipping point when microgrids become mainstream, but it's not too early to predict that they will be an inevitable part of our electric future.