Pittsburgh’s Microgrids Pave the Way for Green Energy

Blog posted On November 22, 2017

Traditional power networks typically depend on power from large sources that can be miles away.  A pilot “microgrid” program, recently launched in the Pittsburgh area, distributes local power through an independent grid that can run without electricity from the main power source, and will continue to operate, for example, if a storm disrupts the power plant.  If implemented on a larger scale, this microgrid technology could make it possible to integrate renewable energy sources and diversify the power supply.

The pilot microgrid project is currently in use at the Pitt Ohio trucking company in Harmar, PA.  Wind turbines and solar panels generate energy during the day and the energy is stored in a battery bank.  The microgrid will continue to function even if the local power plant shuts down.  The total installation cost $325,000, but the director of building maintenance Jim Maug projects a return on investment in as soon as seven to eight years.

Microgrid technology is being implemented across the country.  Gregory Reed, microgrid designer and head of the energy program at the University of Pittsburgh’s engineering school, hopes to see the microgrids linked together in the coming years.  “This is really a first step in the direction we want to take for larger scale installations, he said in a statement. 

The city of Pittsburgh’s chief resilience officer, Grant Ervin, is planning ways for the microgrid project to be incorporated on a citywide scale.  Though the plan is still under review in Pittsburgh, a representative from San Juan called Ervin to ask for advice on rebuilding Puerto Rico’s storm-damaged power grid as well.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto traveled to Germany this week to participate in a climate discussion with an unofficial delegation discussing climate control with more than 100 other Americans, American officials and business owners.  Pittsburgh’s microgrids were cited as one of Pittsburgh’s strategies for increasing the use of sustainable energy and improving power access for citizens. 


Sources: NPR