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Grid Resilience: Energy Security for Commercial Buildings

We’ve been discussing energy security a lot recently in the context of several devastating wildfires and other natural disasters that have resulted in infrastructure damage and power loss in the US and abroad. Community solar and microgrid systems can provide energy security to homes, hospitals, commercial facilities, and even small communities, but the resilience of the larger power infrastructure still impacts all consumers in ways both large and small.

Energy resilience is one of the foremost challenges facing utility companies and their customers today, as accelerating climate change poses new challenges and the momentum towards renewable energy reaches a tipping point. While new technologies offer hope for a future that is greener, more secure, and more affordable, we are at a pivotal moment in which energy resilience needs to be at the forefront of innovation and action.

The Importance of Energy Security for Commercial Buildings

Energy security is vital to all consumers but has particular importance when it comes to commercial buildings like office spaces, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and more. When these buildings lose power, work stops and companies lose revenue rapidly. Because commercial buildings require a lot of energy, they’re particularly vulnerable to power outages. And while many such facilities (especially those with perishable inventories) are equipped with backup generators, they are an expensive and temporary solution to the lack of grid resilience. That’s why commercial building owners and tenants should be advocating for and taking action towards improving their energy resilience.

What is Grid Resilience?

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), resilience is “the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions through adaptable and holistic planning and technical solutions.” The major obstacle to grid resilience is our outdated energy distribution infrastructure, which is very vulnerable to damage from natural disasters (and in some cases even contributes to the problem, as California has experienced).

The NREL notes that the first key way to update our energy infrastructure to provide greater security is to implement “advanced, autonomous control systems” that can “provide grid support services, meet critical loads during outages, and reduce operating costs for system owners.” These systems can reduce power outages and minimize the length of power loss that does occur, thereby decreasing its impact on consumers. The move towards renewable energy sources is also vital to increasing energy security - solar power reduces environmental impact, production costs, and can also decentralize power production to allow homes and commercial buildings to lower their dependence on the grid (if not disconnect entirely).

There are many approaches to solving the problem of grid resilience, often involving innovative new technologies. Groups like Energy Impact Partners are helping utilities cope with the future of energy production and delivery technologies by encouraging innovators to work alongside utilities to create “win-win-win” situations for innovators, utilities, and consumers alike. Their work is a hopeful sign that utility companies will embrace change and invest in innovation instead of doubling-down on the flawed systems that are in place today.

Improve Your Energy Security

Besides advocating for progressive energy policies and supporting new technologies that enhance grid resilience, what can commercial building owners do to increase their energy security? Optimizing energy use is the first step towards decreasing grid dependence. This can be achieved by prioritizing energy efficiency in the design or retrofitting of the building, including efficient HVAC and lighting systems, control systems such as occupancy sensors, and applying renewable energy like solar, wind, or geothermal to building systems whenever possible. The best way to increase a building’s energy resilience is to lower dependence on the grid through solar + storage systems or a microgrid system, whether grid-connected or standalone.

If you’re interested in improving your energy security through access to the full breadth of renewable energy technologies, the team of solar design consultants at Solar Design Studio has you covered. Our solar experts’ experience in product selection and system design and implementation allows them to create a unique, tailored solution for your commercial or residential energy needs. Contact us today to learn more!

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