The Defense Logistics Agency for Energy (DLAE) has selected Viridity Energy to implement curtailment and efficiency strategies at military and other installations around the country.

The Department of Defense is one of the largest consumers of energy in the country and within the federal government. Starting under the Bush Administration, various agencies and divisions in the DoD have set ambitious goals for reducing fossil fuels and increasing renewables. Last month, the DoD announced a program to pursue grid storage research with ARPA-E.

A flurry of DoD purchasing also often leads to quicker adoption of technologies and lower prices for the private sector. The DoD was the primary consumer of semiconductors and transistors in the 1950s and 1960s. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has a great speech on how critics complained when the Navy switched from wood to coal in the 19th century as a primary source of power, and then switched again form coal to oil. Nuclear subs? It couldn't be done, critics said. Now the entire fleet is nuclear.

The project also fits into the increasing specialization in demand response and efficiency services. EnerNoc earlier this year bought M2M Communications to serve the agricultural market. EPS serves industrial food processors. With Viridity involved in the DoD program, expect to see microgrid software play a part.

Here's more on Viridity, which has received money from Intel Capital and Braemar, from an article in January:

The company says its software exists to create "unified power assets" out of buildings and corporate campuses. The software essentially monitors power consumption and power production (in the case of renewable assets) within a given community (i.e., microgrids) and applies demand response rules and algorithms to conserve energy.

It then sells these power assets into the wholesale market. The utility is shielded from the underlying complexity and everyone is happy. The company has worked with Siemens on a number of projects, including one at Drexel University.

Last year, ABB, the electrical equipment giant, bought Viridity competitor Ventyx for $1 billion. Other companies -- such as demand response king EnerNoc and smart meter technology maker Silver Spring Networks -- are building out energy management portfolios that will let them combine demand response and demand management with building control. Ultimately, it will be a seamless web.

From a practical perspective, microgrids and virtual power plants can be considered the same thing. In both cases, software is used to simplify a management headache by consolidating assets under a single roof. Microgrids, however, can represent a marketing challenge. It sounds like you are trying to bring power to one of those villages in Mad Max. Shifting the dialogue to include terms like "unified power assets" or "virtual power plants" makes it easier to understand the possibilities. An aircraft carrier, a military base, a college campus, even a datacenter can be seen more easily as both part of a larger grid and something entirely distinct.