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The Solution to Complexity is Flexibility: Avoiding Dogma in Deploying Microgrids in California

By District Energy posted 02-04-2020 11:57


Energy Central


The complexity of microgrids - the beauty and the curse. California needs flexibility to address complexity when it comes to microgrid policy and regulation to achieve the state's clean energy, resiliency and sustainability goals. 

The beauty of microgrids is their complexity. They are technology neutral. They can integrate and optimize multiple energy resources. They can be fully independent from the grid, or provide the grid with valuable services. They are customized to meet unique customer needs. Microgrids are complex energy systems and are usually designed to achieve multiple energy management objectives. These unique and powerful systems present a challenge: how do we design policies and regulations that respect and embrace their complexity while not suppressing the full value microgrids can provide to the grid and customers? 

When I say complex, I mean energy systems that go beyond simply having backup electricity for a day or two. Many microgrid applications to date are for campus-like environments and large facilities – colleges, hospitals, business parks, neighborhoods – because they optimize the use of not just electricity, but thermal energy systems as well. Think steam, heat, cooling, water.  When you think about microgrids, you need to think about larger scale buildings than just a typical home. Think about even one commercial building like a 3-story office building – it doesn’t just need electricity to power its lights, it needs to provide hot and cold water for bathrooms, steam to generate heat for that water and heating/cooling the air of thousands of square feet of building. Most of that power is not electricity, it’s gas and other thermal generation.

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