The rise of energy-efficient microgrids

Energy distribution in the United States is made possible by a nationwide electrical grid. Spanning 2.7 million miles of power lines, and utilized by over 3,200 utility companies to sell $400 billion of electricity to American homeowners every year, the system has remained largely unchanged since the days of Thomas Edison. But with support for energy efficiency gaining momentum among both businesses and the government, the green power movement could bring about drastic changes to this system and even outright replace the grid structure with smaller, renewable microgrids.

As Earth Techling reports, microgrids are "small-scale electricity generation and distribution systems" that utilize power from local, renewable sources, and do so independently from the main grid. The initial idea behind their conception was to implement microgrids within the larger system, as a sort of back-up power supply in the event of natural disasters, cyber attacks and other local events known to knock out connections to the main electrical grid.

But according to Bloomberg, the concept has grown to the point where many are considering tossing out the current model altogether and replacing it with a series of microgrids. The source points to recent success stories, such as a 26-megawatt microgrid that kept a U.S. Food and Drug Administration research center running after a Hurricane Sandy-caused power outage. Microgrids already save the federal government $11 million in annual electricity expenses.

But the ultimate potential for the microgrid, as Bloomberg surmises, is that it can give every homeowner and business in the country its own self-sustaining power supply, generated completely onsite through renewable sources. While this possibility is still years away, the fact remains that microgrids promise an exciting future for energy-efficiency advocates.

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