January 13, 2018

NO ILL WIND:

Puerto Rico is taking a big step toward revamping how it gets power -- and it could be a model for the rest of the US (Erin Brodwin, Jan. 13th, 2018, Business Insider)

Sonnen's batteries capture and store the power made by solar panels when the sun is shining so that it can be used later when it's cloudy or dark. 

Richetta and a handful of Sonnen staff set up half a dozen solar microgrids in communal areas in some of Puerto Rico's hardest-hit neighborhoods, in partnership with a company called Pura Energia.

In Humacao, a blacked-out province where people were using bacteria-infested streams for washing and laundry, Sonnen and Pura Energia helped set up washing machines powered by the sun. In another part of the island, the companies used the microgrids to set up cellphone-charging stations so that people could attempt to reach out to loved ones on other parts of the island or in the mainland US.

Microgrid systems are already helping provide some coverage to various parts of the mainland US -- but most of these projects are still in the early stages.

In Southern California, a company called Advanced Microgrid Solutions is spearheading a project that involves replacing the energy that was once provided by a large (now decommissioned) nuclear power plant with a series of solar arrays and batteries that AMS can turn on and off based on when the prices for conventional energy are low and when there's the most demand.

"We take hundreds of buildings -- picture entire city blocks -- and each building has a battery. We get the information from each battery, each building, and operate the whole fleet of buildings like one virtual power plant," Manal Yamout, a vice president at Advanced Microgrid Solutions, told Business Insider.

The AMS system is still connected to the wider grid, and it isn't designed to provide stand-alone power. But it could.

Islanded microgrids -- systems that can run independently of the wider grid -- can power entire communities.

Ta'u Island in American Samoa is one example of this. There, Elon Musk's energy company, Tesla, has built a network of 5,328 solar panels and 60 Powerpack batteries that supply the entire island with clean energy. On the Hawaiian island of Kauai, a Tesla solar farm accounts for a fifth of the island's peak energy demand.

The way Yamout sees it, it's less about various individual projects and more about a bigger movement towards a cleaner, cheaper, and more balanced grid. 




Posted by at January 13, 2018 11:40 AM

  

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