MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE 2017: Susan P. Kennedy, Cofounder and CEO of Advanced Microgrid Solutions
The Problem: As chief of staff to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Susan Kennedy helped oversee a massive increase in the state’s renewable-energy capacity—and witnessed its unintended consequences. While solar power helped bring down the overall energy draw on the power grid during the day, demand surged in the evening, requiring utilities to run fossil-fuel plants for backup power.
The Epiphany: Inspired by hybrid-car technology—and falling prices for lithium-ion batteries—Kennedy and cofounder Jackie Pfannenstiel envisioned a plan to equip large buildings with banks of batteries that charge up with electricity from the grid when power is in low demand (and cheap) and switch over to battery power when demand increases, reducing strain on the grid.
The Execution: AMS secured a contract with Southern California Edison in 2014 that includes the retrofitting of 24 large commercial buildings owned by the Irvine Company with hybrid-electric-battery storage systems. The batteries are connected to software that regulates energy use.
The Result: The first 13 buildings are now online, with the rest due late 2017. Energy cost savings range from 7% to 14% while utilities get to avoid building backup plants or purchasing power on the spot market.