Laura Sanchez 2017-09-20 13:32:46
When I was a child, the words “Choose Your Own Adventure” rang with the same exhilarating thrill as the recess bell. As the title of a popular book series, the phrase was indicative of freedom. Books like By Balloon to the Sahara, Search for the Mountain Gorillas, and Mystery of the Maya let shy kids like me explore the world as a mountain climber, a researcher, a racecar driver, or an international spy. They were an imaginative escape. And, more importantly, they gave us the power to make decisions throughout the journey—choices that determined the plot's outcome. The stories were written in the second person, with the reader as the protagonist. Therefore, each of us was charged with making critical decisions and forging new narrative paths. “If you continue on the flight course to Paris [with bad guys onboard], turn to page 39,” the book suggests. “If you escape by booking a flight to Spain instead, turn to page 41.” I share this childhood anecdote because it seems that today many companies are faced with a similar series of choices as they select the best ways to achieve cost-effective, reliable power. Increased demands on the nation's electrical power systems, service interruptions, power quality issues, and energy price spikes have caused many utility customers in the C&I space to seek out additional sources of high-quality, reliable electricity. And in order to address their specific generation needs, an increasing number of companies are arriving at consistent power by way of innovative combinations of distributed energy resources such as CHP systems, gas generators, energy storage batteries, solar, waste-to-energy plants, and geothermal technologies. These distributed energy resources can frequently offer consumers increased control over their energy costs, higher power quality, and increased energy efficiency. We were impressed by the many ingenious approaches to power stability that organizations around the world have shared with us. Therefore, in this issue of Distributed Energy, we’ve chosen to include a collection of articles that outline some of the resourceful routes that companies are taking today to arrive at energy efficiency and resiliency. Our hope is that these stories inspire out-of-the-box thinking and support your organization’s critical decision-making as you determine your own path. Power system flexibility is the ultimate advantage in many industries. We explore the dexterity of microturbines within energy systems in “Great Things Come in Small Packages” (pg. 16). We see that the compact size and relatively light weight of microturbines, coupled with fuel flexibility and lower emissions, makes them an exceptional supportive power source and the perfect balancing technology along with solar, wind, and/or energy storage. In “Affecting Change” (pg. 36), we profile six mayors participating in the Sierra Club’s “Mayors for 100 Percent Clean Energy” initiative, advocating a hyperlocal approach to environmentally positive power production. Mayors across the nation are seeing the effects of climate change firsthand at the municipality level. Therefore, many have committed to affecting change within their communities. From wind power in Greensburg, KS, to solar generation in Portland, ME, and evaluating the environmental cost of oil and gas production in Louisiana, the mayors that have signed this initiative are making a difference on a regional level and beyond. In “Geothermal Technology” (pg. 42), we travel to Everglades National Park, where we learn that a system upgrade for the geothermal system at the preserve’s Conservation Learning Center helps the park capitalize on natural thermal energy while conserving valuable resources. Furthermore, the new open-loop system not only offers optimal energy conservation, but it also uses water as a heat exchanger fluid and returns it to recharge the groundwater source. In “Creative Configurations” (pg. 20), we learn about the innovative approaches that many organizations are taking with regard to onsite power generation and energy storage. Some adopt a building-block method that, with the help of multiple gensets, allows them to add or remove assets according to their power needs. Others take a hybrid approach to power production by generating a percentage of their electricity onsite and buying the rest. And others combine generation assets and optimization software to maximize their system’s efficiency, demonstrating that there are many routes to reliable power. Solar power is an increasingly advantageous generation source. We profile two innovative solar projects in this issue. The first, “Community Solar” (pg. 45), shares the details of a 181.5-kW project installed on three commercial buildings in Washington, D.C. that will benefit affordable housing residents. The second, “Flotovoltaics” (pg. 48), highlights floating solar technology installed on man-made water spaces such as irrigation reservoirs and wastewater ponds—technology that makes previously unused spaces productive by using them to generate clean energy. As evinced by this collection of stories, there are myriad ways to arrive at energy efficiency and resiliency. Selecting the best plan to fit your organization’s needs involves exploring uncharted energy landscapes, developing new narratives, and making critical technology decisions. What path will you choose in your pursuit of reliable power? DE
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