The Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton, Wisconsin is home to one of the world’s most sophisticated microgrids. The non-profit preserve built a highly efficient lodge that the microgrid powers using a mix of electricity from onsite solar, energy storage, fuel cell, microturbine and a natural gas generator. During a microgrid tour in 2018 at the Preserve, the system showed visitors what resilience is all about when a massive thunderstorm hit. As thousands of homes and businesses in the surrounding area went dark, the microgrid went into ‘island mode’ and the tour continued without disruption.
This scenario is the perfect example of why organizations need mechanisms in place to ensure grid reliability and resilience of physical infrastructure. In the U.S., outdated electrical infrastructure has been responsible for nearly $27 billion in losses annually across manufacturing, financial and digital services, government and food and retail. In Europe, energy infrastructure is made up of small, isolated national networks with limited connection, meaning geopolitical or commercial uncertainty can put entire nations at risk of shortages and blackouts.
The risk of physical infrastructure failure is a growing concern for businesses and can result from a variety of sources:
- Weather-related outages. Electrical interruptions caused by extreme weather have doubled since 2003 in the U.S.
- Aging infrastructure. Voltage sags, swells and harmonics can be carried in from weak grids, resulting in intermittent supply disruptions and poor power quality.
- Lax cybersecurity. The rise in cyberattacks on power networks and other critical infrastructure is increasingly worrisome. The 2017 Wannacry attack on 300,000 computers across 150 countries disrupted many essential services, including electric utilities.
Regardless of geography, unexpected power disruptions or poor power quality (illustrated nicely here) can generate unplanned expense, and create a ripple across the supply chain.
What’s the Solution?
Explore opportunities to reduce reliance on the grid and improve control of your organization’s power supplies, including:
- Load management and peak demand. Curtailing consumption or generating power onsite during peak events can help organizations offset increasing energy prices. Consider investing in an energy and power management system that combines smart metering, software and power quality mitigation equipment. These systems optimize the cost, reliability and quality of electrical power.
- Microgrids are one of the most flexible solutions. These can be off-grid or grid-connected, facility or community-owned. Grid-connected microgrids can disconnect from the main grid and still deliver energy from onsite sources.
- Onsite renewables and other distributed energy resources (DERs) can be reliable, grid-friendly and dispatchable. Generate clean power using solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and wind turbines. Organizations can choose to expend capital to purchase these systems or lease them via an onsite power purchase agreement (PPA).
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Though critical in today’s changing energy landscape, investments in infrastructure security are just that—an investment. Access to capital can be challenging. Innovative solutions, including funding options such as energy savings performance contracts, PPAs and proxy revenue swaps are increasingly customizable and offer greater flexibility to address project needs and costs.
To learn more about solutions to infrastructure risk and ways to finance improvements, we invite you to download our eBook, Don’t Risk Resilience: 5 Opportunities & 5 Threats