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Man in hardhat looking at microgrid electrical equipment.

With weather becoming more extreme and cities growing in population, the consequences of a power outage are much greater — if you’re on the grid, that is.

Many communities are localizing their energy needs, generating it right on site so that if there is a natural disaster, they can stay up and running. One way to do that is by building a microgrid, and this month, people are talking about it in the Southwest.

A Good IDEA

A microgrid is a series of energy assets connected to the larger electrical grid, but can operate independently for the sake of a smaller campus or building. Not only does it offer more local control over power generation, but can integrate with renewable sources like solar, wind and combined heat and power more efficiently.

But, it's complicated.

The International District Energy Association (IDEA) will be hosting its 108th Annual Conference and Trade Show from June 26-29 in Scottsdale, Arizona, dedicated to concepts like these. The conference is an opportunity for industry leaders to gather to explore emerging technologies and innovative policies that create new energy paradigms for cities, communities, college campuses, medical centers and more.

Mike Byrnes, Senior VP of SourceOne (a Veolia company), has been invited to speak in a session during one of the conference’s technical workshops: Microgrids for Utilities, Communities and Cities. The workshop will explore how district energy providers, campuses, hospitals and airports can build on district energy infrastructure and use microgrids to make their customers more resilient to environmental disruptions.

He and fellow experts will discuss business development strategies, project best practices and how to screen these opportunities in their early stages. Workshop attendees will be able to participate interactively and ask questions specific to their projects.

Working Off Grid but With the Utility

What’s critical, according to Mike, is “managing the utility relationship throughout the microgrid project lifecycle.” Mike will be answering that question during the session, Strategic Approaches, Best Practices, and Tools for Microgrids. This concern emphasizes that, while many important technical considerations must be addressed to implement a microgrid, all successful projects must also know how to collaborate with the local utility system. As the gatekeeper to grid interconnection, the local utility can be an asset or an impediment throughout design, planning and deployment.

Drawing from numerous case studies, Mike will review strategies for productively engaging with electrical and gas utilities throughout the microgrid project lifecycle. Topics will include:

  • Negotiating system reinforcement charges,
  • Evaluating existing electrical distribution circuits and substations,
  • Repurposing existing network infrastructure,
  • Modeling feeder hosting capacity,
  • Determining interconnection locations, and
  • Securing utility incentives for onsite generation.

The workshop will take place on Monday, June 26 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, MDT. Mike Byrnes will be speaking from 1:00 PM – 1:45 PM. Veolia's Suresh Jambunathan, Pat Davin and Michael Marr will be joining him at the show as speakers on related innovations in water reuse and thermal energy. Learn more about the event here.

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