The Role of Microgrids in Supporting Economic Development
It’s fair to say that the United States’ aging and outage-prone grid infrastructure (coupled with increasing storm intensity) can hinder economic development. E Source estimates that U.S. businesses suffer losses of over $27 billion per year through power outages, and the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. energy infrastructure a rating of D+ in its most recent Infrastructure Report Card. However, these shortcomings in the broader grid are starting to create opportunities for the microgrid industry to provide sites such as economic development zones and industrial parks, which often serve hundreds of businesses, with a steady power supply. In doing so, these microgrids can play important role in supporting economic development efforts.
From an economic development point of view, microgrids offer key benefits to end users: resiliency/reliability, power quality, cost effective growth in a timely fashion, and the potential for reduced energy costs. Microgrids can deliver both resiliency (i.e., the ability to keep key loads up during major power outages and disasters) and reliability (i.e., continuous power through minor faults and outages) via microgrid controllers that optimize on-site generation and storage seamlessly during outages. They can also provide improved power quality, ensuring steady voltage and controlling reactive power, harmonics, and other power quality dimensions that can be damaging to equipment and cause system failures. By adding additional generation resources, a microgrid can allow its consumers to expand and increase their energy consumption in circumstances where grid congestion could have prevented or delayed such growth.