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Microgrid Technology: Recent Improvements Spur Government and Industry to Seek Renewable Energy Solutions

Call it a quiet revolution. Americans have been talking about lessening the nation’s dependence on oil (especially foreign-produced) since the Carter administration, but for many years, there was little advancement towards this goal. Now, recent developments in renewable energy and microgrid technology, and a presidential directive, have prompted many businesses and government agencies to undertake efforts to augment traditional power grid supplies with systems that will both save money and lessen environmental impacts.

The evidence occurs with increasing regularity. In the hospitality industry, one of the most intensive power users in the country, hundreds of hotel sites have opted to develop microgrids that incorporate solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and other technologies to reduce the need for grid power. Glenn Hasak of the Green Lodging News, has listed dozens of them on his site. They range from The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne to the Lova Lava Land Eco-Resort in Hawaii.

Following President Obama’s directive to federal agencies to make $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next two years, Fort Bliss, the country’s biggest military facility, a 1.2-million acre base in West Texas and New Mexico, has awarded a $16 million contract for the construction and operation of a microgrid.

Several other military installations are looking at similar development projects. In addition to cost savings and environmental concerns, microgrid power affords some security from internet-based attacks against power utilities, an increasing concern among cyber security experts. According to the contractor, Johnson Controls, the project is expected to save Fort Bliss $39 million in energy costs over the next 24 years.

Even traditional power utilities are beginning to embrace the concept of microgrids. According to Phil Carson, of intelligentutility.com, “an increase in distributed generation in general—not just renewable energy resources—has driven interest.” Changes to IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) standards in 2011 also helped sway them. The companies are looking to microgrids to increase their potential power production without adding to their infrastructure.

Microgrids are becoming an increasingly popular power solution for companies, agencies and even communities. For more information regarding how a microgrid system could benefit your organization, contact Nextek Power Systems at (877) 24VOLTS or visit us at www.nextekpower.com.

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IEEE/Sirona Cares Solar Trailer Coming to Detroit!

Wayne Gutschow and Liang Downey, both of Nextek Power Systems, having been working hard to make the IEEE/Sirona Cares solar trailers a reality and starting July 24, 2011 one will be on display at the Detroit Renaissance Center during the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting.  The location and event details are as follows: Monday, July 25, 2011 14:00-18:00            

A CSI Special Technical Session will be presented:

Eliminating Global Energy Poverty - The IEEE PES Community Solutions Initiative (CSI)

Room:    GM - TRAINING ROOM 9/10 - TS

Chairs:   Robin Podmore; IncSys and Ray Larsen; SLAC

Speakers will include:

Noel Schulz : IEEE PES President Elect: Introduction

Robin Podmore: CSI Mission and Strategy for Extreme Affordability

Ray Larsen: CSI Solar Trailer – Background and Overview

Wayne Gutschow: CSI Solar Trailer - Engineering Design and Construction Experience

Paul Lacourciere: Sirona Haiti Business Plan and Field Experience

Henry Louie and Vincent Van Acker: Axial Flux Wind Turbine – Construction and Test Experience

Butch Shadwell: Renewable Generation Monitoring and Control System

Glen McKnight:  Open Source Cooperative Development

For registration information, click here.

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More News on Nextek, IEEE, Sirona Cares Solar Trailers

Recently New York Newsday covered the incredible work that IEEE, Sirona Cares and Nextek Powers System are doing to design, create and deploy much needed solar trailers for earthquake ravaged Haiti.  These 1.5kw trailers have the ability to charge 40 batteries that Haitian residents will take to their homes to generate power for lights and charge cell phones, laptops and other portable devices.  These trailers will also  help bolster the economy by allowing Haitian franchisees to lease the trailers and then charge a small fee to residents to rent the batteries and re-charge them.  To see the Newsday article in its entirety, please click here.

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Lighting Up Haiti

Solar-power stations housed in six trailers are sitting aboard a cargo ship heading to Grand Goâve, Haiti a town of nearly 50,000 inhabitants in southern Haiti that was 90 percent destroyed in last year's earthquake. The SunBlazer solar trailers were developed by a team of dedicated IEEE volunteers who answered an IEEE challenge to provide low-cost, reliable electricity to a poor rural area. The team, formed by Life Fellow Ray Larsen, Fellow Robin Podmore, and Senior Member (and Nextek employee) Liang Downey, has spent almost two years designing and building the power stations, now in its first proof-of-concept deployment by the IEEE Community Solutions Initiative group.

CSI, a not-for-profit group within the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES), is committed to the open-source design and delivery of power stations to the world's poorest and most energy-deprived populations. Larsen and Podmore co-chair the group, which is composed entirely of volunteers.

For the complete article recently published on the IEEE’s “The Institute” web magazine, click here.

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Let There Be Light!

In a country where just 1 in 7 citizens have access to electricity, Sirona Cares and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) plan on bringing light and small business opportunities to rural Haiti.  Generous donations of time, money and resources by IEEE members societies, IEEE Foundation, Nextek Power Systems, Russell Engineering and private donors has allowed the team to develop and soon deploy solar trailers that will produce 1 kW of electricity each…enough to charge 40 home battery kits daily, bringing electricity to homes and facilities that desperately need this simple utility. The organizing IEEE group is called the Community Solutions Initiative (communitysolutionsinitiative.org) in which Nextek has several key members including CEO Paul Savage, VP of Engineering Wayne Gutschow and Liang Downey, Director. The Sirona business plan is to establish sustainable local businesses, not charity.  These simple trailers are easy to deploy and maintain.  The product (electricity) is desperately needed within the community and the businesses will be locally owned franchises to provide affordable solutions to the community, as well as create accountability and dignity for business owners.  The initial pilot program will deploy 6 units this spring, followed by the full pilot program which will deploy a total of 15 units.  Ultimately the full scale plan will be to deploy electricity to at least 1,000,000 people (1/10th of the entire population of the country) over the first five years of operation.

While the Pilot program depends on  donated seed funding, a Haitian corporation, Sirona-Haiti, has been established to oversee the pilot operation while raising an estimated $38M in venture capital to establish in-country manufacturing. This will provide another source of jobs and income for local Haitians while fueling rapid growth in which all profits are reinvested in-country. Nextek, along with Russell Engineering who designed the trailer, under Wayne Gutschow has served as the electrical system designer and integrator for the entire enterprise; its amazing volunteer team deserves great credit for the impressive success to date.

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Nextek to Support the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge Initiative

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. Led by a group of IEEE volunteers working with Engineers Without Borders, Nextek Power Systems will be helping to provide renewable energy to Haiti and other disadvantaged regions in the world. Nextek has committed to donate our NPS1000 Power Modules and associated hardware that have been specifically modified to support the initiative in Haiti. The long-term goal is to create economically and environmentally sustainable energy, as well as build an entrepreneurial renewable energy industry in these developing and disadvantaged areas.

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