Perhaps it’s my inborn bias towards news about technology companies (in my former journalism life, I covered the high-tech industry), but my mind keeps wandering this week back to the revelation in early November that software company VMware not only plans to build a microgrid at its Palo Alto, California, headquarters, it also is teaming up with its host city to design the installation.
The project is driven by one of the sustainability community’s frequent allies, the need for resiliency during emergency outages. In that regard, it is like many installations that have been greenlighted by the U.S. military (PDF).
VMware is pitching its own microgrid as a potential backbone for a far more responsive emergency response system, something that every California municipality must be considering keenly as wildfires rage across the state.
The project is also important because of what these partners hope to learn about technical hurdles (integrating microgrids is not for the faint of heart!) and about effective collaboration (many legacy policies are in place that make orchestrating an installation such as this inherently frustrating; all minds on deck).
Few details of what will go into the VMware “proof of concept” are available, only that the microgrid will combine renewable electricity generation (probably solar), energy storage capacity and software that will integrate it with Palo Alto’s municipal utility infrastructure.
The other thing that intrigues me is the identity of one person likely to be involved with getting this thing off the ground — at least behind the scenes. Akamai’s former senior director of sustainability, Nicola Peill-Moelter, joined VMware this month as director of sustainability innovation, a job change she tweeted about last weekend. Given Peill-Moelter’s role in helping catalyze one of the industry’s first “aggregated” power purchase agreements with Apple, Swiss Re and Etsy, I suspect that VMware won’t be afraid to break some rules with this microgrid.
Speaking of breaking rules, another system you’ll want to watch closely is being planned by the Port of Long Beach, the second busiest seaport in the United States, in collaboration with energy management company Schneider Electric.
Partially funded with a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission, this microgrid will include a 300-kilowatt solar array, multiple types of energy storage, software and energy management controls from Schneider Electric and EnSync Energy controllers for demand response, peak shaving and islanding applications.
Read more at GreenBiz