Preaching the gospel of microgrids and battery storage from an east coast pulpit - Maryland Matters

Preaching the gospel of microgrids and battery storage from an east coast pulpit – Maryland Issues

Photo voltaic panels on the roof of the California Indian Museum and Multicultural Middle in Santa Rosa, California, the place American Micro-Grid Options helps the establishment construct a resilience hub. Picture courtesy of American Microgrid Options.

As a part of the continued Maryland Issues Local weather Calling sequence, we’ll sometimes function profiles of inexperienced power entrepreneurs in Maryland.

Geoff Oxnam lately sat on the patio at his favourite Easton espresso store and spoke about his work in Hawaii, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts and dozens of different states. When he must seek the advice of with one in every of his colleagues, who’re all working remotely, they’re in Seattle, Norway, Mumbai and different distant corners of the world.

However make no mistake: Oxnam’s work has roots in Easton, formed by his 13 years as an government on the distinctive municipal utility of East Coast cities. Oxnam, 53, is CEO of American Microgrid Options LLC, a startup that advises actual property builders, nonprofits, and neighborhood organizations on tips on how to deploy photo voltaic arrays, resilience hubs, microgrids, and different renewable power belongings that may face up to the disasters of the current and the long run .

“We have been blessed that the telephones have been ringing since we began,” Oxnam stated. We all know that won’t all the time be the case.

Due to his work and volunteer work because the Board Chair of the Maryland Clear Vitality Middle and as a member of the Advisory Board of the Maryland Vitality Innovation Institute, Oxnam is without doubt one of the states main advocates for clear power applied sciences, notably battery storage. And as an entrepreneur, he can use his first-hand expertise to unfold the gospel and know-how.

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Oxnam began his firm seven years in the past after stepping into the facility technology enterprise fairly by chance when he turned communications director for community-owned Easton Utilities, which offers energy, gasoline, telecom, water and wastewater therapy companies to town’s 17,000 residents. Rising to Vice President of Operations at Utilities, he by no means thought he would delve so deeply into the world of energy grids, photo voltaic techniques and transmission regulation.

Have been 25 years in a two-year plan, Oxnam likes to say.

In a comparatively brief time frame, American Microgrid Options has grown to serve purchasers in roughly 30 states, advising them on tips on how to arrange, finance and handle renewable power vegetation and storage amenities on their properties or on constructing resilience facilities of their communities.

They actually have the power to encourage massive pondering, stated Christina McPike, director of power and sustainability at WinnCompanies, a Massachusetts-based actual property growth and administration agency that has labored with Oxnam.

Every undertaking has a backstory and divulges one thing in regards to the challenges within the widespread adoption of unpolluted power applied sciences. In addition they say one thing in regards to the state of electrical energy provide at a time when pure disasters have gotten extra frequent.

America’s energy grid is an engineering marvel, Oxnam stated. In case you consider the highest 5 issues that constructed America’s economic system, the facility grid is one in every of them. However the know-how ages, the elements age. We tried to construct the following technology of structure which may look totally different than what we’ve as we speak.

I regarded on the structure of the infrastructure

In a manner, Oxnam’s personal journey displays the modifications and progress within the renewable power enterprise.

He’s a former journalist, publicist, and dedicated environmentalist who got here to Maryland to observe his coronary heart. He was working at {a magazine} in Rhode Island when he was launched to his future spouse, a Baltimore native, at a social gathering.

We knew from the hour we met that we had been getting married, he recalled.

Finally, Oxnam indulged his ardour for the setting by working on the Chesapeake Bay Basis in Annapolis, the place he was Director of Communications for numerous years. Discovering the challenges of discovering inexpensive, kid-friendly actual property in Annapolis, he and his spouse determined to quickly transfer throughout the Bay Bridge in Easton to lift a household. That was 25 years in the past.

Inside just a few years, Oxnam landed the communications job on the native utility firm. It was a life altering expertise.

Working at Easton Utilities has been the most effective sensible graduate college in infrastructure operations I may have ever wished for, he stated. At one level, Oxnam stated, his bosses stated to him, be at liberty to determine the way it works and what you wish to do about it.

Geoff Oxnam. courtesy photograph.

The general public utility has an atypical administration construction and an exemplary steadiness sheet. The mayor and metropolis council appoint three commissioners to supervise operations, and Utilities President and CEO Hugh Grunden is a neighborhood resident and operations supervisor who has led operations for practically 30 years. Customer support is paramount and metropolis energy outages are uncommon.

A lot effort has gone into preventive upkeep, Oxnam stated. There’s such a excessive motivation for excellence in operations. You don’t have any battle between shareholders and curiosity payers. There’s quite a lot of native pleasure in it. You possibly can see it, you’ll be able to contact it. You already know the individuals affected by this and also you wish to do your finest to verify the system is up and working.

Like a typical utility, Easton will get its energy from the PJM grid, which serves 13 states and the District of Columbia. However the metropolis has additionally established an intensive backup microgrid that shops power and offers energy to your complete neighborhood for seven to 10 days if the principle energy supply fails.

If there is a main blackout just like the East Coast blackout, that is the one place you should utilize the ATM or get a burger, Oxnam stated.

This vital and unusually resilient backup bought Oxnam serious about the way forward for fashionable power storage.

Easton has a very numerous danger administration technique, he stated. Whereas I used to be there, I regarded on the structure of the infrastructure.

They actually helped us see the potential

So what does American Microgrid Options do? It presents a spread of companies geared toward non-profit organizations, authorities businesses and personal entities. Possibly they wish to swap their energy provide to renewable power. Maybe they wish to arrange a big power storage facility. You might wish to arrange a resilience heart that may develop into a gathering level in a neighborhood, offering emergency energy and plenty of different requirements throughout a disaster. As Oxnam places it, prospects are usually on the lookout for financial savings, sustainability, or safety, or a mixture of each.

We’re a mission-driven firm centered on empowering communities, he stated. And we imagine one of the best ways to empower communities is to construct techniques that give them extra management.

Lots of the firm’s prospects are small, community-based well being facilities that do not have the funds or infrastructure of huge medical amenities however are nonetheless making an attempt to arrange extra climate-friendly and dependable power sources, Oxnam stated.

American Microgrid Techniques will go to a web site to evaluate the feasibility of putting in renewable power techniques, a microgrid or battery storage. The sensible challenges of working a system are mentioned. It’ll match purchasers with contractors. And he creates value estimates and descriptions financing choices.

Typically the monetary engineering is tougher than the precise engineering, Oxnam stated. He calls the companies his firm Soup for Nuts offers administration. Typically sufficient, the recommendation and companies cowl the wants of the current, but in addition look to the long run.

Take into account three initiatives American Microgrid Techniques is presently highlighting on its web site. One in all them is a photo voltaic array that the corporate put in on the US Geological Service’s Water Science Middle in Catonsville. The federal government water testing facility is the primary tenant in a know-how park simply off the College of Maryland campus in Baltimore County, and the photo voltaic undertaking consists of an evaluation of whether or not solar energy might be possible in different buildings as extra tenants transfer in.

One other American Microgrid Techniques undertaking is a residential redevelopment undertaking within the Barry Farm neighborhood of southeast Washington, DC. The corporate helps the developer construct battery storage and is discussing the opportunity of placing a neighborhood resilience heart on the coronary heart of the event.

In Hawaii, the corporate is working with the Maui County authorities to plan an island-wide community of resilience hubs to handle the challenges posed by offering renewable power backup energy in distant areas served by inhabitants facilities are remoted (Oxnam laments that when it got here time for an American microgrid worker to spend a month engaged on the undertaking in Maui lately, he could not go).

McPike stated WinnCompanies employed American Microgrid Techniques after they received a grant to check the opportunity of putting in battery storage techniques in six of their Northeast housing developments they personal. Dialogue additionally included the potential for integrating battery storage, photo voltaic panels, electrical automobile charging stations and managed thermostats.

“You have actually helped us see the potential, worth and complexity of what you are doing after the conceptual evaluation is full,” stated McPike.

Even for an organization that is already powering photo voltaic panels on condominium advanced rooftops in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and DC, the prospect of a extra advanced, interconnected renewable power system is attention-grabbing, thrilling and somewhat scary, she stated. However the firm believes Oxnam’s agency has the power to assist navigate the monetary and regulatory challenges.

AMS fills a data hole, McPike stated.

Oxnam and his colleagues have develop into such specialists that they’ve collaborated with Kristin Baja, a former Metropolis of Baltimore local weather and resilience planner and now director of the City Sustainability Administrators Community, to publish guides and different how-to supplies on resilience facilities.

We actually wrote the guide collectively, he says.

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