Microgrids hope to enable intermittent renewables
The U.S. has seen steadily growing interest in renewable electricity, but integrating these new energy sources into existing systems has proven problematic. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Wisconsin plans to test a solution to this issue with the introduction of several "microgrid" projects around the state.
Microgrids are semi-independent systems that normally work in concert with traditional electricity grids. However, these microgrids can be easily separated from the larger system, allowing it to function independently, providingflexibility in the event of an emergency. In addition, microgrids can allow for more efficient use of local intermittent power sources like solar electricity and wind power.
The U.S. military has been one of the primary proponents of microgrids, largely on security grounds, but now the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and at Madison will each implement their own microgrids in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Each will make use of extensive wind, solar and electricity storage systems.
"This is going to be a proof-of-concept system where we're going to have to deal with real-life conditions like the sun not shining or the winds [not] blowing," John Bobrowich, the head of the University of Wisconsin Center for Renewable Energy Systems, told the Journal Sentinel.
Utility Products notes a report from Pike Research suggests military microgrids alone could grow 739 percent between 2011 and 2017, to reach a capacity of as much as 316 megawatts.