CHICAGO — The recent announcement by Standard Solar and Solar Grid Storage of the completion of one of the first commercial-scale microgrids couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. It was just one year ago this week that Hurricane Sandy struck, wreaking havoc across 24 states and leaving widespread power outages in her wake — an occurrence that Standard Solar CEO Tony Clifford cites as one of the reasons why microgrids are dominating discussion among solar industry experts today.
Tom Leyden, CEO of Solar Grid Storage, emphasized the crucial need for microgrid storage in the event of such natural disasters, pointing out that solar power’s grid connectivity requirements have made it just as vulnerable as traditional electricity. The answer, according to Leyden, is combining solar PV and storage.
“When you add storage to PV,” Leyden said, “you’re able to keep that PV system operating and provide emergency power indefinitely.” Leyden believes that being able to add storage capacity to PV is far more valuable than PV alone, calling it “the next big thing” in the solar industry.
The collaborative project between Standard Solar and Solar Grid Storage resulted in the building of a 400-kW solar deck atop a parking structure at the headquarters of Maryland-based real estate firm Konterra. The result was a PV array capable of producing clean electricity while also having the flexibility to provide backup power during outages.
Clifford indicated that the US Department of Defense has also been great interest in the development of microgrids, specifically for the continuity of power during terrorist attacks and other military actions — a development that could bode well for future microgrid projects on a much larger scale.
Emergency power issues aside, both men believe that being able to provide effective, grid-interactive energy storage will be key to enabling PV to go “mainstream” in the U.S.