Disrupt or Be Disrupted


Disrupt or Be Disrupted: How Microgrids Impact the Energy Industry

Disruption is one of the buzzwords often used in today’s business world. In the era of the start-up company, businesses must either go out and disrupt their industries or prepare to be disrupted themselves.
By definition, disruptive innovation provides “just good enough” alternatives for low-profit customers or emerging market segments. It is often initially ignored by the established competitors as being too low quality to matter. Eventually, the quality of the new technology improves enough to be attractive to the higher-end customer, thus displacing the traditional competitor.
When we speak of disruptive innovation, one of the examples that often comes up is Uber, which was able to transform the transportation industry as we know it through their innovative mobile app. By responding to consumer cries for more options and price control, Uber disrupted the traditional business model of the taxicab industry and achieved huge success.
When you think about it, what is going on in our industry isn’t too different from what went on in the taxicab sector. The increasing penetration of renewables and other Distributed Energy Resources (DER), digital sensing and control technologies, and automation and optimization tools are dramatically disrupting the electric power industry, especially at the distribution level. Make no mistake, these changes will require energy companies to change the way they do business, or face being left behind.

New technologies, like microgrids and community solar gardens, will continue to infiltrate the market and force utilities to rethink their current business models. Rather than let these changes negatively disrupt their business, utilities should take advantage of the big opportunities that can be realized by cultivating this “disruptive innovation.”
At OATI, we’re leading by example through the development of the OATI Microgrid Technology Center, a state-of-the-art microgrid, which showcases cutting-edge technologies, such as Combined Cooling, Heat, and Power (CCHP), Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and wind generation, energy storage, and OATI’s sophisticated microgrid control and optimization software, GridMind™.
While I believe the benefits of microgrid development are vast, I also realize that deciding to build your own microgrid can be a very complicated proposition. This is why it’s important to me that OATI is prepared to help entities explore how microgrid development can be a successful investment for their organization. From conducting a feasibility study to microgrid design, facility operations, and maintenance, we are able to get the right people on board who understand how a microgrid is designed, how it operates at the base level, and how it interacts with the grid and the utility.
It’s my hope that by embracing disruptive innovation we’ll successfully transition into the new era of our industry and continue to power the future, together.

About the Author:
Sasan Mokhtari, Ph.D., has more than 32 years of experience in the North American energy industry, and holds the position of President and Chief Executive Officer at OATI, which he founded in 1995. Dr. Mokhtari focuses OATI on providing innovative solutions, platforms, infrastructure, and hardware technologies that help to usher in new business paradigms in the energy industry worldwide. He holds a doctorate in Electrical Engineering, Power Systems, from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he also served as Lecturer in the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics. Dr. Mokhtari is also the holder of a number of U.S. patents, author of numerous professional papers, and has participated in numerous panel sessions, workshops, and technical conferences.