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Energy News: Microgrids, EV Charging, Battery-Gas Peaking Plant, and Net-Zero Salesforce - So What Else is New?

Sometimes the news isn’t exactly new. Faithful readers of Advanced Energy Perspectives will recognize much of what is in this week’s news: From Schneider Electric’s new microgrid system to GE’s first-ever storage-plus-natural-gas system to Salesforce making good on its advanced energy commitments, AEE members are, as always, leading the way to an energy system that is ever more secure, clean, and affordable.

First up this week we have a story of AEE member Schneider Electric. IDG Connect reports that the global energy management conglomerate installed a natural gas, storage, and solar microgrid system for its North American headquarters and R&D center in Andover, Mass. The microgrid will be able to produce 520 MWh of electricity per year, which is expected to cover 10% of its power needs and cut energy costs for the campus by 20%.

The project is more than just a cost-cutting measure and a step toward energy independence for the company part of Schneider’s R&D efforts. Schneider is one of the global leaders in microgrid technology, which combines advanced energy technologies into an independent system that can lower costs while also ensuring greater reliability for the microgrid owner, providing protection against outages.

Although the U.S. only has about 1.6 GW of microgrids installed currently, it’s the best market in the world, if not for the best reason. “The U.S. has been the best market for microgrids because our [national] grid reliability is much lower than other parts of the industrialized world, such as Europe or Japan,” said Peter Asmus, associate director of energy research at Navigant Research. You can learn more about microgrid technology, and how it increases reliability and resiliency, here.

Microgrids are just one of the technologies that are creating a more reliable U.S. grid. Consolidated Edison, the largest utility in New York, is piloting “SmartCharge New York,” an incentive program to reward EV customers for charging their cars during off-peak hours. Rewards include cheaper fuel: $0.05/kWh for charging, as well as e-gift cards and nonprofit donations. In return, Con Edison gets a more reliable demand curve and all the data on EV charging habits it can handle. Participants in the program connect a device that communicates with the utility to the car’s on-board diagnostic port. The utility can then use this data to better serve future EV customers, of which they are anticipating many.

“We expect the number of electric vehicles to increase the next few years as drivers realize the economic and environmental benefits,” Matthew Ketschke, Con Edison’s vice president, distributed resource integration, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in another instance of an AEE member at the vanguard of new technologies, GE announced that it had completed the first hybrid gas-storage power system. For the project, GE partnered with Southern California Edison and Wellhead Power Solutions to build a 10 MW battery storage system that serves alongside a 50 MW gas turbine. The hybrid turbine system can be powered up at any time to address demand spikes like a traditional natural gas peaker, but has the added benefit of not needing to remain in standby mode, consuming fuel resources, when it is not needed. The batteries can also provide instant power while the natural gas turbines are ramping up.

“The new system will help SCE better utilize the resources on the grid, provide enhanced reliability, reduce environmental impact, and reduce cost for our operations and for our customers,” Southern California Edison President Ron Nichols said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Finally, another AEE member, Salesforce, announced late last week that it had reached two big advanced energy goals. The company achieved net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its direct operations, including headquarters and data facilities, while simultaneously creating a “carbon neutral cloud” for customers of its cloud-based computing services. Based in San Francisco (not far from AEE’s San Francisco office!), Salesforce chose advanced energy by investing in wind power and energy efficient construction for its headquarters, and by purchasing credits from clean energy projects to offset remaining fossil fuel use. Salesforce’s data centers and buildings are designed to use electricity efficiently, and the company signed two 12-year PPAs last year for electricity from wind farms in West Virginia and Texas.

Originally published on Advanced Energy Perspectives.

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