Maybe it was the pandemic or maybe it was the law of accelerating returns. Whatever the case, 2020 brought rapid change for microgrids. Where the technology was solidly for the few in 2019, it suddenly looked quite possibly for the many in 2020. That’s why Microgrid Knowledge is naming the home microgrid, as its 2020 ‘Person of the Year.’
To explain, let me jump back 18 months to our annual conference in May 2019. There were many intriguing discussions at the event, but one session in particular now strikes me as pivotal. John Westerman, then with Dynamic Energy Networks and now with Schneider Electric, gave a presentation on how he built his own home microgrid, what some would call a nanogrid.
At the time, home microgrids were an oddity, and his presentation did little to make me think that would change anytime soon. Westerman’s microgrid was affordable because he did the engineering and labor himself. Unfortunately, few of us know skilled microgrid engineers willing to do pro bono work for us.
So home microgrids, while found here and there, still appeared far down the road as an accessible product. At that point, most microgrids were being built for businesses, colleges, hospitals, and the like. But three things happened to shorten the road a lot.
The first was the public safety power shutoff, the term California’s utilities use to describe the practice they began of shutting off power to customers to avoid sparking wildfires with their electrical equipment.
Outages humiliating for California
California first felt the brunt of the practice in October 2019, an experience the Los Angeles Times described as “humiliating.” More outages were to come, leaving millions of Californians in the dark over the wildfire seasons of 2019 and 2020. The bitter cherry on the top for California was an unusual rolling blackout in August 2020, brought about not by wildfires but a lack of adequate electric supply in the face of extreme heat. After that, as one microgrid developer told Microgrid Knowledge, “Demand was through the roof before and now it’s through the chimney.read more