Microgrids – What are they and Do I Want One?

Microgrid use

A Microgrid can be a vital piece of your company’s resiliency plans. What is the value of being able to keep your most critical operations running in the event of a power failure? Competitive advantage? Ability to continue to produce product for your most valued customer? These are the most common reasons.

What is a Microgrid

If you don’t know what Resiliency is, I suggest you look into it and the concepts of business continuity. In brief a microgrid is a self-contained energy grid for use by a limited number of critical services in the event the main grid (electrical transmission system) goes down. It can be limited to your buildings, or extended to adjacent properties that may support your operation (gasoline stations, supermarket, materials suppliers, hotel / lodging, emergency services, etc.…)

The concept has been used in remote locations, high-security facilities and even college campuses.

Applying the ideas to a manufacturing facility might look like this:

1) Assess your core needs

Which machines would you want to keep running in the event all power was lost? Perhaps you already have a stand-by generator on-site. This could be a piece of your microgrid. These are some typical needs:

– Mission-critical operations (IT servers, phone communications)

– Processes that produce high-tolerance products for which loss of power might disrupt accuracy.

– Processes that produce products in high demand, where down-time burdens the capacity of the plant and creates backlogged work.

– Processes that require heat or cold which, if lost result in unusable finished goods (frozen pasta in storage for example).

2) Look at wider local resources your company uses

Is there a fueling station for your delivery trucks nearby? Is your local heating oil dealer next door? Is there a community center that might be used for shelter by the local town residents or families of the workers?

3) Assess grid connections

The concept is to connect your critical resources with an island of electrical service that can be disconnected from the larger grid.

4) Price the system, and look at cogeneration options as well

Using the waste heat from a generator to heat water, heat air, or provide cooling, boosts the fuel efficiency of the system from 30% or 40% to 80% or 85%.

5) Meet with community stakeholders and other companies

There may be opportunity to support local community resiliency initiatives; apply for grants and low interest loans to reduce the capital expense.


Good site for information on microgrids and their applications:


Excellent resource on incentives, rebates, tax credits and loan programs in each state of the US:


What other considerations do you feel should be part of your evaluation of a microgrid?

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