Companies have long been sold on the idea of conserving energy as a means to be better stewards of both natural resources and their own financial resources.
Energy managers have sought ways to reduce their organization’s carbon footprint, reduce emissions, reduce waste, reduce power use and more. When it comes to power use in particular, most of the effort and emphasis has been on conservation: how can we use less power?
Answers have included everything from switching to LED lighting to investing in sophisticated building control systems that monitor usage and identify opportunities to maximize efficiency.
What’s next for organizations that have maximized their conservation options? The next step might be actually producing and/or storing their own energy.
Some technologies to watch:
Microgrids. Communities and even single facilities are increasingly turning to microgrids to deliver power needs. Microgrids typically connect to local resources – often renewable energy options like solar or wind power – for operation. Microgrids are connected to the main power grid, but can operate independently. Microgrids allow communities or facilities to become energy independent, and in some cases even sell energy back to the main grid. The effect reduces overall energy costs and may even become a revenue source.
MicroCHP. Combined heat and power systems combines the production of heat and electricity and converts waste heat to electricity. The systems are more efficient to operate, and may be powered by a variety of fuels including natural gas, biomass, solar and more. MicroCHPs make it possible to keep power generation extremely local (a home or office building), thus reducing the loss incurred in transmission of energy over distances. MicroCHPs can produce surplus energy, making more available to sell back to traditional energy suppliers.
Energy storage. Utility companies are now starting to experiment with using batteries for energy storage, but smaller scale solutions for homes and smaller facilities are on the horizon, too. The development of battery storage will allow producers to capture power generated by renewable energy sources like solar and wind and store for use when production is not at peak. For homes and businesses, this could open up the possibility of generating and storing their own power, and possibly even selling it back to the grid.