One of the most underreported stories in the U.S. energy industry today is Connecticut’s ambitious electricity pilot project—one that could have a widespread ripple effect across the country. On July 24, state government officials announced plans for nine microgrid projects as part of a Microgrid Pilot Program aimed at ensuring electricity grid resilience and reliability during severe weather events.
“Microgrids” are essentially small-scale electricity generation and distribution systems that integrate various distributed energy resources and can be managed locally and, if necessary, independently from the main grid. Diesel-powered microgrids are common in the rural areas of many developing countries such as Haiti, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and some military bases, telecommunications bases, and Internet server farms have done the same, in order to ensure a steady flow of power even if a natural disaster or terrorist attack should take down the main grid.
More recently, and in response to security concerns and prolonged power outages, the concept of creating a microgrid within an existing electricity grid has gained traction. The goal is to increase the security of local power supplies in the face of natural disasters and cyber threats, while at the same time creating a robust market for solar energy and other small-scale generators. Several microgrids are already complete or under development in the United States. Among the first adopters are educational institutions like the University of California-San Diego, New York University, Utica College, and Cornell University. The U.S. Department of Defense is also blazing trails, having installed microgrid infrastructure at multiple army bases already. Now, Connecticut is the first state to develop an explicit policy on microgrids.