Photo courtesy of David J. Unger for Midwest Energy News

Last month, Ameren Illinois unveiled a nearly 1.5MW microgrid, constructed at a reported cost of $5 million. It is being hailed by the utility as one of North America’s most advanced distributed-energy-resource facilities, as it is powered by the complex integration of solar panels, wind power, natural-gas generators and energy storage. The microgrid’s primary feature is its ability to ‘island’ itself (isolate its systems from a disruption to the broader power grid) and continue to supply power to its local customers — in this case, more than 190 nearby homes. Microgrids are the “physical and practical manifestations of a more connected, less centralized power system,” and (especially when paired with dynamic metering technology) can enable consumers to better manage what kind of energy they use and how they use it.

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