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Utilities Poised to Launch Microgrid Era

The national electric grid is facing a major paradigm shift with the dawn of a new microgrid era, and utilities are getting ready to be key players.

Major utilities across America are getting ready to dramatically evolve our electric grid through deployment of microgrids, representatives of three of the nation’s largest utilities say.

The current grid is dominated by one-way flow of electricity from mammoth power plants located on the fringes of urban areas. That grid, built up over a century, is in for a paradigm shift.

Now urban areas will be increasingly honeycombed with microgrids built around small generation units, often renewable, backed up with energy storage. Initially, they will be deployed around hospitals, police stations, schools and other critical urban assets. Over time, they will expand to housing developments, strip retail centers and neighborhoods.

They will offer greater resilience for electric power at a time of increasingly disruptive weather events such as the hurricanes that recently crippled Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast.

New data resources will give the utilities deep knowledge of details of the operation of a much more complex, far-flung, more digital grid.

Josh McIlvoy, Entergy’s distributed energy resource development & operations manager, said, “Utilities have a great opportunity, enabled by recent technological developments, to create a robust electric network capable of serving customers’ specific needs in ways that weren’t possible before.”

McIlvoy joined Adam Nygaard, Duke Energy business development manager, Christopher Johnson, AEP director, enterprise innovation & technology and Ben Edgar, Black & Veatch business development manager, distributed generation & microgrids, on a webcast to discuss these trends this week. For more information about the webcast, “How Leading Companies are Empowering Customers & Cities through New Energy Technologies,” please click here.

The future of the grid, electricity and future utility business models will be the focus of the Empowering Customers & Cities executive energy conference in Chicago November 7-8. Black & Veatch is a sponsor of both the webcast and the conference.

The three utility panel participants in the webcast prepared the following statements on the impact of microgrids on the electric grid.

Josh McIlvoy

“… utilities need to have several things in place.  First, they need to be able to hear from customers and translate what they learn into meaningful products and services.  Second, utilities must be able to manage these new technologies, and new kinds of customer interactions, in an optimized network.  Third, they need flexible business and technical programs that allow them to quickly adapt to

changing technology, customer demands, and regulatory requirements.  Entergy is in the early stages of developing programs to do just these things, leveraging a variety of DER solutions to both bolster the grid and add significant value to customers.”

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Adam Nygaard

“Duke Energy has been researching and developing microgrids for over a decade and has plans to expand them in a big way.  Costs for Solar PV and battery energy storage

are declining. Software, protections and controls are becoming more advanced.  These facts combined will enable win-win microgrids for utilities and customers.  Utilities are able to optimize grid operations, while customersare provided with increase power reliability and resiliency.”

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Christopher Johnson

“Our electric system has operated using the same base technologies for more than 100 years. Today, technologies are available that allow customers, regulators, and utilities to work together to provide the level of service that the customers of today demand. We (American Electric Power) want to remain our customer's energy solution provider of choice because we can continue to provide electricity in the safest, most secure, integrated and at the lowest price point possible. Together, with our customers, we are redefining the future of energy and developing innovative solutions that power communities and improve lives.”

 

 

 

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