WV Microgrid Resurfaces: Too Little, Too Late

Pam Kasey dug the FirstEnergy/WVU Super Circuit project out of obscurity this week.  The project was awarded funding back in 2009 by the US Dept. of Energy to test microgrid control technologies in a real world setting (if you can call a university campus the real world).  Here is a link to a slide show describing the project that was presented at a 2009 technical conference.

After 2009, the Super Circuit project disappeared from the media in WV, despite the fact that the increasingly shaky WV electrical distribution cries out for microgrid solutions.  The blackouts of the last three years have demonstrated that clearly.

So Pam dug into the story and came up with this article in The State Journal last week.  It turns out that the Super Circuit is alive and well.  While FirstEnergy is trying to hustle the WV PSC to take its coal fired power plant, the company is sitting on research about microgrid technologies that are already being deployed in other states and other countries.  WV needs microgrid deployment NOW.

And the people with the best practical experience with these kinds of systems are not necessarily the academics at WVU.  In fact, one of the engineers involved in the project spent an entire day picking the brains of Matt Sherald, owner of PIMBY Energy, one of WV’s most knowledgeable solar installers, to learn the characteristics of current flows from photovoltaic panels and inverters.

Microgrid and so-called “smart grid” technologies are not new and they aren’t mysterious.  Hiding them from West Virginians, and keeping them bottled up in WVU labs, demonstrates clearly the lack of leadership in our state when it comes to our electrical system’s future.

Here’s the last sentence of Pam’s story:

Bard expects the project to begin purchasing major equipment in January and to have everything up and running in 2013, with results in 2014.

2013?  2014?  Really?  Sad.

4 thoughts on “WV Microgrid Resurfaces: Too Little, Too Late

  1. Smart Grid/Micro grid and all the other catchphrases is window dressing in utility company speak for one thing-automating systems that remove the human element from the equasion; i.e.- the worker.

    • Bob,

      I see your point, and I have a lot more reservations about so-called smart grid developments that enhance grid centralization and control by power companies. Development in this direction only leads to less reliability and more insecurity.

      However, there are a lot of networking technologies that are often called smart grid that are essential to the creation of local microgrids and which can be used to link small scale local generators into resilient local grids with locally based storage. These technologies actually create jobs and enhance local knowledge and skills.

      • Bill, you are absolutely right, and I acknowledge your point. That’s why it’s so important for regulators to be informed and up to date with what’s possible in this environment.

      • Thanks for your comments Bob. I always like having conversations with the real power experts, guys like you who do it every day, instead of the so-called experts and PR flacks that the power companies trot out for the media.

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