In a recent call with a client, we heard a facilities manager dismiss a move to create their own microgrid. The technology was there, the interest was there, the plan was there, but he was still nervous. He didn’t want to be ‘on an island’. Continue reading “An Island With A Bridge: Microgrids Plug Into Utilities”
Renewable energy is up across the county. In our home state of Michigan, that’s no different. Renewables are playing a leading role in reducing emissions and increasing efficiency like never before.
An end-of-year study confirmed what we’ve long known to be true. Sustainable, responsible energy is on the rise, and it’s offering an exciting glimpse at what’s possible. Renewable energy is up by a whopping 57% over the previous calendar year, and in 2020, that number could rise even further. That report, conducted by the Michigan Public Service Commission, confirmed that these innovative energy production avenues have increased every year since 2006. Renewables now account for nearly 45,000 kWh in the state, up 46% since 2017.
Of those alternative energy sources, solar energy remains the top producer in the state of Michigan by some margin. It’s responsible for 94% of renewable energy sources, with wind power a very, very distant second place. It might also be worth noting that just two companies, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, account for a massive 88% of all alternative energy production. There are renewable energy projects in every single Michigan county, except one. Only Luce County in the Upper Peninsula lacks a renewable energy project as of the time of this study’s publication.
The state has a long road ahead to eliminate fossil fuels. According to the state’s annual report, 10% of energy came from renewable sources in 2015. Only about 1% of the state’s energy needs are met by solar, while the state is offering up some encouraging results from wind. Michigan ranks 14th in wind power potential, which currently accounts for 93% of our current alternative energy capacity.
We’re proud to be playing a part in bringing Michigan communities and companies into a more sustainable way of life. By improving energy use today, we’re preparing companies from across industries to plug into the new technologies and opportunities that are right around the corner. Keen can help companies save tens of thousands of dollars per year right now, and that’s only the tip of what technology and innovation will offer tomorrow.
Want an expert look at how your facility can save money and increase efficiency? Schedule a comprehensive energy audit today.
It’s a massive challenge, but a crucial one. Across the country and around the world, companies, cities, even entire countries are committing to getting to zero carbon emissions. Ranging from the ambitious to the outrageous, the timeline for those goals varies by decades, but the real question is how we plan to get there. It’s a race against time, against pollution, against resistance, and against significant technological barriers. It’s a race to zero. But how do we get there?
It appears there are two avenues, though both of them rely heavily on renewable energy as a crucial piece of their infrastructure. Some of those goals are specific in achieving carbon neutrality with renewables and energy storage alone, which would eliminate nuclear or biomass sources of electricity. That’s a key distinction, with various risks and inefficiencies of those types of energy production already controversial. This avenue puts tremendous pressure on renewable technologies not just to adapt and improve quickly, but to do so cheaply. While solar, wind, and other renewables have improved in leaps and bounds, they’re only now becoming reasonable options for consumers, especially at grid-level.
The other option is to include renewable options like biomass and nuclear energy as pieces to the energy puzzle, not only to meet specific timelines but as integral parts of the energy picture for decades to come. This relieves some pressure on renewables, allowing certain parts of the grid in place; think of it as starting a game of connect-the-dots with one corner already finished. However, support of nuclear power, in particular, is waning, and with geopolitical instabilities around all things nuclear more fragile than ever, it’s not a technology that can be fairly, safely, or equitably implemented around the globe.
So how do we get to grid-level renewable energy, which has a near-constant demand, with power generation that is variable at best? Both wind and solar electrical production peaks and dips according to the season, the time of day, even minute to minute; a passing cloud could affect solar, while gusting and becalmed times can have a huge impact on wind. The key, then, is storage, and storage that’s inexpensive enough to implement now.
That number isn’t exactly a mystery. MIT ran a study that put the figure at $20 per kilowatt-hour to make renewable energy and energy storage viable. The downside? That’s nearly half the rate these technologies can offer right now. Experts say that this figure may not even be possible by 2030, a full decade away. A big part of that forecast is that the study accounted for not just daily, weekly, or monthly fluctuations in wind and solar energy, but entire years and even decades; they aren’t building this model based on short-term changes, but for long-term peaks and valleys in energy consumption. In effect, they’re preparing for the worst-case scenarios, which would be extremely high demands (think six years of very cold winters and very hot summers, for example) with extremely low output from wind and solar.
It’s those ‘worst-case’ scenarios that skew the target kilowatt costs. The study pointed out that if we account for 95% of energy needs, opposed to 100%, then the target kilowatt-hour jumps to $150. Why does such a small change have such a big impact? Because that 5% accounts for astronomically small and rate weather patterns; it’s like saying we’re having the worst weather possible not just for a year or two, but for decades.
And that’s a big point to make; such gloomy weather forecasts are extremely unlikely. It’s also worth noting that these renewable energy sources are no different than fossil fuels and natural gas in one way; no source of fuel is perfectly reliable. Changes in access, production, and efficiency in oil refinement, for example, is why the cost of a barrel of oil can change drastically in a single day, and even more do over long periods of time. Historically, oil production has gone up, while the future only looks brighter for renewables. While scarcity and exhaustion mean oil will only ever costs more before it ultimately runs out, technology and efficiency improvements mean renewable energy can only get less expensive.
That brings us to another point to be optimistic. If you were to invest in the infrastructure of your business, your city, or your country, which would you back financially. Option one will only cost you more money over time and eventually run out, but it is cheaper now. Option two will only cost you less money over time and never run out, but costs more today. Anyone planning for the next decade and beyond will go for the second option, and that’s why the 2030 forecast for viable energy storage and renewable energy might not be as optimistic as it should be. Soon, the industry will have the type of investment and financial backing to make the types of strides we need to see to make it viable sooner, and that’s because it’s not just society that needs these changes, but the influential businesses themselves.
Will it take another decade to see renewable energy and energy storage take over? We don’t think so. Want to learn more? Give us a call and let’s talk about how you can create your own grid now and insulate your business from changing energy costs for years to come.
Europe experienced a week-long heatwave in mid-July. Just a week, scorching temperatures melted the Midwest and Deep South, eventually moving to the East Coast to smother states like New York and Massachusetts. But it wasn’t just tough on the people of those regions.
The sweltering heat is a massive strain on power grids, too. In winter, natural gas, heating oil, and other fuel sources supporting heating efforts and while the grid does see an increase in demand on frigid days, it’s often less pronounced than during summer months. That’s because when people need air conditioning, nearly everything draws on electricity. Bearing the brunt of the cooling needs of tens of millions of people, the grid sees massive, prolonged levels of demand that can last days or even weeks.
That demand can lead to outages, and when the lights go off and the air conditioning shuts d
own, those high temperatures can be dangerous. Cities across the Midwest offered public cooling spaces, water, even air-conditioned places to charge electronics to those whose homes had lost power.
It isn’t all load, either. The temperatures actually cause the grid to operate even less efficiently, with transmission lines physically swelling due to the heat and increased load. Studies show that extreme heat could cause a 1-5% decrease in efficiency over the next decade.
Tackling climate change and extreme weather patterns will take a lot of resources, innovation, and investment. There are lessons to be learned from states who’ve experienced similar heatwaves in the past, but energy grid experts are motivated to do more. See what other factors have caused energy companies to look to grid-scale energy storage solutions to make sure we can power the future.
More and more, we work with companies looking to incorporate renewable energy sources to power their facilities. Plugging in solar, wind, and other pieces make a lot of sense, but most businesses will get more bang for the buck by taking one step first.
Control Your Energy Costs
Most of the firms we talk to already employ various load shedding tactics to reduce their most dramatic energy peaks. More efficient equipment, creative scheduling, and other strategies can work well, but only to a point. We’re advocating hard for those firms to be early adopters to energy storage. Technology that was unthinkable even a year ago has now hit production, creating batteries capable of handling those energy peaks, reducing the strain on both utility companies and their consumers. This saves our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and lowers their rates with producers.
The next step is to plug-in energy production on-site. From natural gas to renewables, being able to control your own energy production not only lowers your bill but offers a unique opportunity to store any excess power you produce with your energy storage unit. Instead of selling your electricity back to the utility company at a lower rate than you purchase it for, you can keep it for your own use, effectively saving the costs you would have incurred at the utility company’s rate!
One step at a time. First, call Keen Technical Solutions. We’ll undertake a comprehensive energy audit and closely examine years of your energy bills to offer a plan, determine the ideal size of ESS, and to help us set accurate predictions of just how much money you’ll save with this innovative system.
Keep Your Green Promises
When the consumer is able to store the energy themselves, they are actually getting the full value of their energy. As alternative energy technology progresses, the ROI’s are going to be better and better making energy storage systems a vital part of managing energy for consumers. But, even if a consumer has no current plans for solar or wind power, the energy storage systems are absorbing peak loads, saving huge amounts of money. Because of this, they are a win-win for consumers!
“What we’ve seen in the past six months is a shift in power. Businesses are now able to control their own power fluctuations and shape their energy future.”
— Tim Pulliam, Co-Founder, Keen Technical Solutions