Another Big US Storm, Another Argument for Microgrids

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Big storms offer a good argument for microgrids. And last week’s blizzard in the eastern United States was no exception, based on government data released today.

The Energy Information Administration reports that more than one million electricity customers lost power when the record-setting blizzard swept across 14 states.

outage map blizzard 2016Customers with microgrids are able to keep the lights on during bad weather by islanding from the failing central grid. The microgrid then turns to its own local generators to serve customers within its borders. Several microgrids made the news following Superstorm Sandy because they were rare  lights in an otherwise dark landscape.

The January 22-23 blizzard was no SuperStorm Sandy – which caused 8.5 million power outages in 2012 – but it did some serious damage to power lines. In fact,  power facilities suffered more than any other infrastructure during the blizzard, according to EIA.

500,000 reasons for microgrids in the Carolinas

Utilities prepared in advance for the storm, calling in extra workers, as governors declared states of emergency in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

North Carolina and South Carolina suffered the greatest number of power outages; about 500,000 customers lost power in all. Duke Energy rallied about 7,000 workers to restore power.

New Jersey was hard hit, too, with more than 200,000 outages.

An important Delaware oil refinery also lost power. The PBF Energy’s Delaware City oil refinery is responsible for 15 percent of the East Coast’s refining capacity, about 190,000 barrels per day.

The blizzard drove up demand for natural gas only slightly in the 14 states most heavily affected. Natural gas prices, therefore, remained relatively stable, EIA said. This contrasts with January 2014 when severe cold increased demand for natural gas and prices reached record-highs in parts of the Northeast.

The eastern states snowstorm dwarfed news of another, major power outage on the other side of the U.S. A 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska on January 24 that left 15,000 customers without power.

The federal Energy Assurance Daily tracks data on outages and other developments that influence energy systems, flows, and markets. The latest annual report from the federal service showed 15 major power outages (more than 250,000 customers) in 2014 up from 12 in 2013. All of the outages were weather related.

Free Resource from Microgrid Knowledge Library

Energy Storage
Energy Storage in Smart Microgrids
All power systems also require the capability to balance, in real time, differences between load demand and generator output. This balancing capability—which keeps system frequency at the level where it’s designed to operate—is critical to ensure the stability and reliability of the overall power system, for both centralized power grids as well as microgrids. In a centralized grid, fossil-fuel-fired generating plants typically will ramp up or down to ensure demand and generation output remains in balance.
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peak outages snowstorm

Learn more about the weather argument for microgrids by downloading our free Think Microgrid series.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of and She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


  1. You would think that over a million people affected by blackouts from weather related issues would consider alternative methods to have electrical power during these outages? The utility grid is an island style connection but a lot of good that does if the lines are down from storms. The island style connection can be another ATS automatic transfer switch-point for auto start generators, battery banking pure sinewave inverter power, solar and wind and any hybrid power source. Automatically monitoring and transferring power so fast that computer/clock resets are not required from one power source to another power source using quality off the shelf microprocessor controlled inverters that are the brains for all this switching and a lot more.

    Wake up readers there is no reason to lose electrical power ever.

    D B Electric