I was watching coverage of Hurricane Sandy last month, when that storm hit the East Coast of America. Like many viewers, I was hoping that people would escape serious injury and that homes would be left standing.
But there was something else that caught my eye: as the storm hit, cities were plunged into darkness as they lost their connections to the US electricity grid. Despite this, I noticed that some buildings were still bathed in light. The fact that some buildings seemed immune to the power outage struck me as being a bit strange, so I thought I’d investigate further.
From my research the majority of these buildings are utilising microgrids, a concept I’d certainly not heard of before.
The basic idea behind them is that a building, or set of buildings, has its own power supply. As a result, an island of energy is created that’s separate from the main power grid. During storms (as was the case with Hurricane Sandy) the presence of a microgrid means that critical buildings can be protected from losing power.
So what exactly are microgrids and how do they work? In simple terms, microgrids are smaller, localised versions of centralised electricity systems that integrate and utilise both traditional and renewable energy sources. A website called the Innovation Trail is a great information source for this technology if you are keen to find out more.
Here in the UK, we’re not exposed to hurricanes to the same extent. There is still however, an increasing level of demand for microgrids. To find out why this should be the case, it’s informative to take a look at some of the key features of microgrid technology.
One element that is causing particular interest is the fact that energy control systems can be used to create buildings that are smart. As a result, a building is able to react to a set of conditions.
A good example would be an intelligent lighting system. Such a system might automatically be used to provide light in some areas of a building, where it senses that people are present. It could also be used to dip the lights in areas that aren’t being used. Such systems can then reduce energy usage and can help to reduce energy bills.
As you can see, microgrid technology is useful in both domestic and commercial environments. It’s all part of a new wave of technology that is helping us all to be better towards the wider environment.