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Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Hill: Rep. Martin Heinrich Touts Value of Microgrids in Improving Security and Speeding Development of Renewable Energy Technologies

Images Yesterday's edition of The Hill's Congress Blog featured an article penned by Rep. Martin Heinrich (D, NM-01) on developing a more secure smart grid for the nation. Demonstrating his knowledge about high-tech energy issues, Rep. Heinrich discusses potential threats to security posed by a national smart grid for power transmission -- and touts microgrids as a way to minimize such problems as well as speed up development of renewable energy technologies.

Microgrids offer the technology that could enable the secure growth of discreet elements of the smart grid. Also known as distributed generation, microgrids produce energy closer to the user rather than transmitting it from remote power plants. Power is generated and stored locally, and works in conjunction with the main grid, providing power as needed.

Many experts believe that microgrids offer the redundancy of systems that can protect our macrogrid from cyber-attacks. Our current reliance on centralized energy generation provides one central point of attack–and leaves the entire system vulnerable if it goes down. Alternatively, a grid supplemented with microgrids can isolate systems under attack, and is less likely to be completely disabled, which would allow our transmission system to recover faster from cyber-attacks, natural disasters, or cascading blackouts like the one that took out the Eastern Seaboard in 2003.

As an example of how microgrids could be incredibly useful in times of emergencies, Rep. Heinrich points to New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit:

Implications for critical infrastructure protection throughout the United States are enormous. For example, a single microgrid in New Orleans could provide secure and reliable power for multiple critical hospitals, medical institutions and bio-medical research facilities, even during traumatic weather events like Hurricane Katrina.

Heinrich goes on to discuss the value of microgrids on military bases and the legislation he introduced to establish a microgrid pilot program. If successful, such a program could speed up the development of clean energy technologies generally:

That’s why I introduced H.R. 5230, the Military Energy Security Act (MESA), which would establish an energy security pilot program to develop partnerships between military bases and national laboratories to develop secure microgrid systems. Supporting the science and technology for microgrids will put our nation on the fast-track to energy independence. Microgrids provide a more secure infrastructure for our military, both here and abroad, and are a key component to the success of our nation’s clean energy strategy.

Microgrids can accelerate development and implementation of renewable energy technologies, from solar to wind to biomass, providing local generation that negates the need to retrofit national transmission lines. One of the greatest challenges of implementing a national smart grid solution is the cost and time associated with retrofitting aging power plants, transmission lines, homes and offices with the appropriate technology. Microgrids offer an incremental approach that can bring the benefits of smart grid technology and introduce more renewable energy to those who need them in a timely, efficient and cost-effective manner.

Well done, Congressman.

October 7, 2010 at 10:06 AM in Energy, Environment, Military Affairs, National Security, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink


The people at Sandia Labs really appreciate having an engineer for a Congressman. The unmentioned point about microgrids, essentially a modular system, is that they would be way more efficient because they would minimize the energy lost in transmission.

Posted by: Proud Democrat | Oct 7, 2010 12:43:24 PM

The key factor for any microgrid is the source of distributed generation or renewable energy source. I am working on a 6 MW microgrid project at an east coast military installation that will save 40% on energy cost and reduce greenhous gas by over 50%. This innovative design and intelligent capture of theremal energy that makes this what DOD could be looking for. I cheer on Congressman Heinrich and encourage congress to pass this bill.

Posted by: Bill Elliott | Oct 8, 2010 12:07:31 PM

Republican version of this:

Vote for the guy who knows nothing and is just angry about everything and who will ship jobs overseas to China.

Posted by: Stuart Heady | Oct 10, 2010 3:01:07 PM