Image Credits: Will Lester/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / Getty Images
Across the U.S., sustainable microgrids are emerging as a vital tool in the fight against climate change and increasingly common natural disasters. In the wake of hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, the traditional energy grid in many parts of the country is struggling to keep the power flowing, causing outages that slow local economies and ultimately put lives at risk.
Microgrids — power installations that are designed to run independently from the wider electricity grid in emergency situations — have been around for decades, but until the turn of the century, relied almost exclusively on fossil fuels to generate power. While it’s taken another 20 years for solar panels and battery storage costs to fall far enough to make truly sustainable microgrids an economic reality, a recent surge in interest and installations have shown that they’ve reached an inflection point and could very well be the future of clean energy.
Such a system stands in stark contrast to the power grid of today, where peak demand facilities are routinely called upon to burn some of the most environmentally harmful fuels to accommodate demand with few if any social or technological limitations. Sustainable microgrids are finally becoming truly affordable, and in the process are beginning to change the way we think about energy consumption and resilience.