Peter Lilienthal, Ph.D.

How to Classify Microgrids: Setting the Stage for a Distributed Generation Energy Future

In this post by HOMER CEO Dr. Peter Lilienthal, we consider the problem of how to classify microgrids. This is a special entry in our microgrid learning series. Although microgrids are becoming more and more prevalent in both the press and in energy world, there is no common definition of exactly what constitutes a microgrid or how to differentiate among types of microgrids. The term microgrid is not well defined or distinguished from […]

Microgrids Rank High for Top Utility Issues 2012

The Intelligent Utility newsletter lists their take on the: “Top Five Issues of 2012 (so far)”.  Of the five issues listed two of them speak directly to the core of HOMER Energy’s business. Issue # 1: Keeping the lights on while integrating renewables… Issue # 4: Dealing with intrusions into their business domain such as microgrids… We are showing how microgrids are the best way to keep the lights on when integrating high […]

Microgrid Value Propositions

Microgrids are power systems that can operate autonomously using combinations of conventional generation technologies, such as diesel gensets and combined heat and power systems, renewable resources, other new generation technologies, such as micro-turbines and fuel cells, energy storage systems, and load management systems.  There are three distinct microgrid value propositions that are useful for segmenting their market: increasing reliability, reducing fuel consumption, and reducing emissions. Microgrids for reliability Because most electric service outages […]

The Island Energy Challenge

Petroleum is the problem Islands face extreme challenges from an energy security perspective. Pipelines supplying inexpensive and plentiful natural gas are not an option for them.  Only very large islands, such as Taiwan, can use coal or nuclear. These factors have left most of them completely dependent on liquid fuels derived from petroleum, mostly diesel.  With only a few weeks of on-island storage, a supply interruption that delays the oil supply barge becomes […]

Clean micro-grid technologies are going to change the utility industry

Large electric grids like we have in North America are awe-inspiring.  They are undoubtedly the most complex machines ever built.  People don’t usually think of them as a machine, but really they are a set of components connected by wires just like any electronic machine.  Only in this case it spans millions of square miles and contains billions of other machines, namely every other machine or appliance that is plugged into the grid.  […]

Powering Health

HOMER Energy has renewed its contract with the US Agency for International Development and Tetratech to design hybrid renewable energy systems for rural health clinics and hospitals in Haiti. Called “Powering Health,” the work includes updates to a simplified online model of the HOMER software www.homerenergy.com customized to the needs of rural health clinics. The Haiti project is for a great example of how HOMER can be customized for specific applications. HOMER originally […]

The Other Problem with Nuclear Power

I got into renewable energy in the 1970’s, partially in response to the prospect of an expansion of nuclear power.  I was videotaped by CBS News at Seabrook asking people to hire me to chop wood for them rather than support nuclear power.  Then Three Mile Island happened and for 3 decades it looked like the nuclear power industry was dead.  We got complacent and worried more about peak oil and climate change.  […]

The First True Smart Grids are Being Built Today – in Alaska

The first true “smart grids” are already being built, but they aren’t where you would expect.  It is not Boulder Colorado’s much-hyped SmartGridCity, built by Xcel at a cost of $140 million dollars.  That is little more than a collection of smart meters and a fiber optic network. If you want to see a smart grid today with distributed load control, energy storage, and extremely high penetrations of renewable power you need to […]

Clean, Smart Micro-grids

Despite recent experiments with deregulation, the current top-down utility paradigm has remained essentially unchanged for a century. Large central station generators provide an undifferentiated power product over a high voltage transmission system. Consumer needs are not undifferentiated in two important ways. Electric applications vary dramatically in terms of the value of reliability. Consumers vary dramatically in their willingness to pay to reduce the environmental impact of their energy consumption. Utilities have started to […]

Why Isolated Utilities should be the Test Bed for Smart Grids

There is a lot of optimism about the potential for the Smart Grid. That optimism is justified because communication and control technologies have advanced tremendously in the last decade. Also, the carbon reduction goals will require more renewables, more distributed power, and more load management. Each of those innovations will require more intelligence in the way we manage the grid. Unfortunately, adapting the current utility industry to these changes is an enormous challenge. […]