How to achieve success with electrical microgrids.

Author:Wakefield, Andy

As the national grid becomes increasingly stressed, attention is turning back to a distributed energy structure that may be better able to deliver reliable, efficient power. Spurred by events like Hurricane Sandy, microgrids--independent, decentralized power systems--are becoming a hot topic.

At their core, energy microgrids on government installations reduce reliance on an increasingly frail external power supply, improve energy reliability, and contribute to self-sustainable operations. They help protect against typical power outages caused by downed power lines, grid failure and human error, as well as more malicious threats to supply such as terror- ism, hacking and potential cyber attacks.

But microgrids do have their own associated risks. As a finite source of power, microgrids are vulnerable to energy fluctuation, and unusual demand may overwhelm the system.

While more efficient buildings, vehicles, and processes work to address demand, energy microgrids are helping to ensure access and availability by reducing dependence on external power supplies. The military is committed to responsible energy use and reducing its carbon footprint, but it is even more critical that an installation's key systems ensure reliable power delivery under all circumstances to sustain necessary advanced operations.

Army Maj. Joe Buccino, spokesman tor Fort Bliss in Texas, explains that microgricis are essential to the future of military energy security. "The tactical utility of this technology is its ability to allow us to operate off the grid. We are entering an age of emerging threats and cyber warfare. We are assuming an unacceptable measure of risk at fixed installations of extended power loss in the event of an attack on the fragile electric grid."

Lighting control systems, when properly planned and implemented, can create significantly greater flexibility within a microgrid. Integrated dimming control allows the facility to reduce lighting energy use on demand, leading to greater confidence in the microgrid's ability to supply necessary power and keep essential buildings or areas operational running during natural disasters, military operations and other emergency situations.

Depending on the type ot security threat, preset lighting scenarios can be programmed to react to a variety of crisis situations, ensuring that the right lights always have power. For example, a system might increase lighting levels at the perimeter, maintain full lighting power...

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