Climate change is making weather more extreme.
That means more wind and heavy rain and ice, too.
And all that means are electric grid is getting hit hard again and again.
In the history of this company.
we've had six of the worst storms in the last ten years.
Weather is getting more and more extreme.
The grid is getting stressed.
Outages are not going to stop happening.
If we have an extreme weather event, there is a big risk that the central grid will be collapsed.
That's why microgrids are so central to a conversation.
First, we need to talk about the big grid.
When everything is going right, it sends electricity from where it's made along power lines to your house.
But say a tree falls.
Your neighborhood, a whole section of the grid has lost power.
Enter the microgrid.
This one is in Panton, Vermont.
When something happens to the electrical grid, itself, serving the community, the microgrid can separate itself from the bigger grid and bring itself up online.
And all of this happens in the blink of an eye.
But that's not all.
This microgrid runs exclusively on clean, renewable energy.
At this scale where you're talking about an entire distribution circuit, that's an entire part of the grid that you're powering with solar and batteries in this case, and no fossil fuel generators, thats rare.
The microgrid makes and stores its own electricity and then distributes it when necessary.
For the people on the microgrid, they don't even know there's been a power outage.
People like ALESSANDRA RELLINI.
Her farm is about to be part of the Panton microgrid.
In fact, it's in her backyard.
Having reliable electricity, it's important for our business.
Pig pig pig pig pig pig.
We have piglets, litters all year round.
That's vital for us.
If it's cold, the piglets will try to be as close to mom as possible, and they get crushed.
So we use heat lamps to protect them.
Even just losing one piglet in a litter of fourteen is a big loss for us.
And once Alessandra packages and freezes the meat, she needs the electricity to stay on.
But it's not just piglets and farm freezers that need power.
I did 30 years in municipal services in emergency management.
There are people on respirators at home.
They have a short battery backup, maybe 3 hours.
They need their power to work.
It's essential for those people to stay alive.
So how do you create a backup power source for a whole town that doesn't rely on fossil fuels?
It's a question that has really only had an answer in the last couple of years.
When we did our first solar project, a panel that was bigger than this one produced about 180.
That's 180 watts, about enough to power most of the small electronics in your home.
These are 320 watt panels.
So efficiency, energy density, how much power you can get out of a single panel that has that has evolved tremendously in the last ten years.
But what about when the sun isn't shining?
What we have in here is 4000 kilowatt hours of stored energy in batteries.
You could probably power eight homes for an entire month just with the energy stored here.
Lithium ion batteries have been around for a long time.
They've powered all of our portable devices and everything.
The technology has really evolved in the last half decade to be much more cost effective and energy dense.
Microgrids have been around for decades as well, but powering with renewables and batteries is complicated.
When you operate equipment in your home, it relies on a certain voltage, it relies on a certain frequency, things that are key to the electric system in the United States.
When you separate from the bigger grid, you need to simulate that with equipment.
The red boxes are the they're called reclosers.
They're like circuit breakers.
To integrate all of that is really where the engineering challenge came in for this microgrid.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing.
Initially, we were concerned that solar panels, they could be ugly.
I got used to it.
It's great to know that the sun is being harvested.
So I welcome it.
I think it looks cuter now that my sheep are under it.
The sheep are so happy there.
The array provides constant shade.
So it's perfect.
And it's not only during power outages that this microgrid is useful.
We had some very hot stretches this summer.
Those are times when the grid has to call on a lot of different oil fired units, more carbon intensive units.
Using the solar and the battery storage, when theres not a system issue, we provide support to the grid, ultimately reducing how much fossil fuel is being burned to produce electricity.
Microgrids are creating the clean energy that we need, but they're also there to respond to the climate crisis that we are in and will continue to be in.