Towns and cities are increasingly aware of the value of gaining control over their energy supply in order to make sure it is clean, efficient, reliable and secure. The central concept of what may become a local power revolution is the microgrid.
A microgrid is a localized grid that can disconnect from the traditional grid to operate autonomously and help mitigate disturbances to the grid at large.
There are multiple reasons why municipalities would want to establish a microgrid. First of all, a microgrid will keep the lights on when the central grid fails. Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast in 2012 provided all the evidence one might need for the desirability of such a capability.
Municipalities also want to gain more control over energy costs, which are often determined by large investor-owned utilities. With a reliable local power system, municipalities are better positioned to compete for sought-after industries and the local jobs that come with them.
Microgrids offer the opportunity for municipalities to incorporate solar, wind and other renewable energy sources into their energy mix and thereby play a more active role in improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The microgrid movement is the energy version of the buy local movement that is becoming increasingly popular. Both large and small cities around the world are taking the initiative to tap local energy sources and take control of the infrastructure that is crucial to their economic wellbeing and overall quality of life. Microgrids will play a growing role in an overall energy system that is rapidly evolving with new technologies and changing needs.
Photo, posted August 19, 2009, courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.