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Microgrids Power Energy Resiliency, Reduced Carbon Emissions

By Asim Hussain Vice President, Commercial Strategy & Customer Experience, Bloom Energy

According to the Eaton Blackout Tracker, 36.7 million people were affected by more than 3,500 power outages in the U.S. in 2017 alone. These outages lasted twice as long as the year before, keeping the lights off for an average of nearly eight hours per disruption.

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The U.S. energy infrastructure is aging.

Fast forward to 2019, and utilities in California are informing their customers to be prepared for four to five day outages.

Extreme weather events are a major driver of this trend; data shows that droughts, forest fires, and storms have doubled over the past four decades and other disasters, such as floods, have quadrupled. The unprecedented weather events that swept across the U.S. in 2018 and 2019 alone are telling—Florida’s Hurricane Michael, California’s Camp Fire, and the Midwest’s polar vortex, just to name a few. As catastrophic weather events continue to escalate, prolonged grid outages will follow.

The nation’s electrical grids are aging and ill-equipped to reliably service us. Our existing infrastructure has multiple single points of failure, a design weakness that should not be a part of a 21st century power structure. Service territories may be shut off for five days because of concerns of live wires spreading wildfires.

Too many times, power has been knocked out to businesses, homes, hospitals, and schools from coast to coast. Today, we are less certain when the grid will come back online. It’s time to look to new, proven technologies that can keep the lights on when communities need it most. It is time to adapt.

Microgrids offer a solution. They are sources of electric power that can operate independently of the main electrical grid indefinitely. This helps protect businesses and communities from increasing outages.

For example, our company, Bloom Energy is a microgrid developer, with its first installation in 2011. The Bloom Energy AlwaysON Microgrid provides power both when the grid is available and when it is down. As the primary power provider, the AlwaysON Microgrid eliminates the need to design for backup and alternative generation sources.

In 2018, Bloom microgrids powered facilities through 550+ outages around the world. In July 2019, when a New York grid outage plunged tens of thousands of customers into darkness, Bloom’s microgrids kept the power on at Home Depot stores in the area.

Bloom Energy servers generate electricity from natural gas, biogas, or hydrogen without combustion through an electrochemical reaction. They generate up to 50 percent less CO2 than grid power, and produce virtually no smog-forming emissions. Because they are fueled by an underground pipeline system, they are less susceptible to extreme weather.

We need to look to energy solutions that address the causes and consequences of climate change. Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently published its 2019 New Energy Outlook and highlighted that after 2030, we don’t have a solution—despite all the utility scale solar and wind development—to limiting the average global temperature rise to less than 2ºC (3.8oF). Technology like microgrid servers are a climate solution not just until 2030, but beyond. |||

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