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Pittsburgh's Microgrids Technology Could Lead The Way For Green Energy

Center for Energy & GRID Director Dr. Greg Reed talks to NPR about microgrid research at Pitt

Usually, power grids rely on a far-flung network. For example, a person making toast might be drawing electricity from miles away. A microgrid is a local, independent power grid that can run without electricity from the main network.

A pilot site for microgrids is at the Pitt Ohio trucking company in nearby Harmar, Pa. Jim Maug, director of building maintenance, eagerly showed a reporter the building's green credentials last month. A wind turbine twisted near the parking lot. Solar panels tiled the roof. And in the truck bay, electric forklifts ran on batteries fueled by the renewable power.

"We're anticipating about a seven to eight-year return on investment," said Maug. The project cost about $325,000, he added.

Gregory Reed, head of the energy program at the University of Pittsburgh's engineering school, designed the grid. It includes a battery bank to store the energy for times when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. During a storm, he said, even if the local power plant shuts down, the lights at this truck bay will probably stay on.

"This is really a first step in the direction we want to take for larger scale installations," he added. He imagines expanding what he's created here to cover whole neighborhoods, and then linking those microgrids to create a flexible network.

Read the full story by Daniella Cheslow at NPR.

Author: Daniella Cheslow, National Public Radio

Contact: Paul Kovach