Public acceptance of and demand for renewable energy has made possible non-traditional energy generation and distribution models that further efficiency, diversity and carbon emission reduction preferences of the modern consumer. The hybrid model, for example, might be a mix of solar, wind and battery storage to guarantee reliable electric supply during intermittency periods.

Energy Committee Chair Jon Mitchell, Mayor of New Bedford (MA) organized the session specifically to discuss how microgrids and emerging battery storage systems can help cities meet electricity needs and achieve clean energy and carbon reduction goals. Mayor Mitchell asked the question of whether micro grids and energy storage can meet the needs of our communities; and, if so, what scale of electricity supply should be considered and how can projects be financed?

San Jose (CA) Mayor Sam Liccardo remarked on the on-going challenge in California to provide electricity to residents and businesses in forested areas and the need to ensure electrical transmission equipment does not contribute to wildfires. Liccardo stated that San Jose has put together a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop micro grids and energy storage to address the wildfire problem and provide clean electricity simultaneously. One of the many public benefits of micro grids, according to Liccardo, is that they pay for themselves in energy cost savings over a relatively short period of time. He also remarked that micro grids can avoid catastrophic wildfires and the cost in asset damage, public health and business disruption.

Energy experts Joshua Radoff, Senior Vice President at WSP-USA, and Geoff Gunn PE, Arup-Boston briefed mayors on what is happening in the field with the deployment of micro grids in different configurations in different cities. The experts stated that new technologies are becoming available and cost are coming down. They also talked about how battery storage is smoothening out the power supply during intermittency periods. Radoff and Gunn also pointed out that the deployment and proliferation of micro grids and energy storage technology will depend on the ability of developers and city officials to establish a workable permitting, code and zoning regime that requires broad stakeholder consensus, (to see the power point click here).