Sun Valley Forum tests microgrid technology, Idaho Mountain Express

Four-day conference wrapped up Saturday in Ketchum

by Peter Jensen

The Sun Valley Forum wrapped up last week after offering residents an opportunity to tour an energy microgrid set up in Forest Service Park throughout the conference in Ketchum.

While the system was taken down before the conference finished, renewable-energy advocates hope the Wood River Valley could become a permanent home for it.

The technology has been touted as a solution for a backup power source in the northern Wood River Valley, and as an alternative for Idaho Power Co.’s proposed second transmission line.

The Sun Valley Forum was put on by the Sun Valley Institute, and featured more than 60 speakers who spoke at the Limelight Hotel.

It was the forum’s third year, and it drew ideas from government, journalism, business, academia and other fields.

 “In a time of rapid environmental, economic, political and social change, the forum galvanizes action toward more resilient prosperity across communities, business and investments, bringing leaders together to share strategies and ignite new partnerships,” Sun Valley Institute founder Aimée Christensen said in a news release.

The forum also showcased the microgrid technology, which was set up by two companies called EnerBlü and Iteros.

EnerBlü is based in Riverside, Calif., and Iteros is based in San Diego.

The companies offered free tours to demonstrate how the microgrids work. The technology can take energy stored in batteries as well as energy produced by solar panels or other sources, and distribute it to consumers.

The technology is used by military agencies to ensure they have a reliable source of power if one fails so they will have access to uninterrupted electricity generation and storage.

 It’s also taken hold as a means of backup power for communities in the U.S.

Christensen and Ketchum Mayor Nina Jonas have advocated for microgrid use instead of constructing a second transmission line between Hailey and Ketchum.

Conventional electricity supply from major utility companies usually means drawing power from a massive source, like a hydroelectric dam or coal-fired plant, and then distributing over large geographic areas via transmission and distribution lines.

A microgrid is different; it works on a smaller scale and culls electricity from local producers like solar panels, wind, batteries or diesel generators, according to EnerBlü.

The microgrid can cut itself off from the main grid and operate independently, as well as provide energy to residential, commercial and industrial users if an outage were to occur on the main power line.

The systems include nano hybrid systems, which produce 1 to 5 kilowatts at their peak.

The companies also produce five- to 30-kilowatt systems, which would be sufficient for a small village. At 30 to 100 kilowatts, the system would be large enough to serve a village that boasts commercial production or manufacturing. Larger than 100 kilowatts, the systems could power entire towns, according to EnerBlü.

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