A microgrid is a small-scale power grid that can operate independently or in conjunction with the main electrical grid. They can be used as back-up or supplementary power sources for the main grid when there is large electricity demand. Microgrids also play an important role in enabling the integration and use of renewable power like wind and rooftop solar, along with helping potentially reduce costs and enhance system resiliency.
There are typically four types of Microgrids.
These microgrids can include military bases, university and commercial campuses, industrial manufacturing sites and hospitals.
These microgrids are often found in urban and suburban settings. They use portions of the existing utility infrastructure to route power between sources of generation and end-users, and typically have multiple points of connection to the main grid.
Rural & Remote Electrification
There are more than 1 billion people without access to electricity around the world. Microgrids can be a particularly efficient and cost-effective means of bringing electricity to populations in rural or remote locations that wouldn’t otherwise have access to power. Along with helping electrify rural populations, many industrial operations such as mining or oil field exploration are too remote for connection to established grids, and microgrids may be viable solutions for these applications as well.
Island electric power systems, such as those in the Caribbean, Hawaii, and many other locations can be considered microgrids. They are electrically isolated from other supporting grid infrastructure like you would find on large continents such as North America and Europe. Because of their locations and the higher availability of renewable resources, island microgrids tend to integrate more renewables into their generation mix.
The Microgrid Trend
The need for reliable, affordable, efficient and cleaner energy has never been greater. Evolving regulatory policies, availability of enabling technologies, and the falling costs for distributed energy resources are driving the development and adoption of microgrids. They are being used to ensure resiliency for critical infrastructure in major cities as populations around the world shift to urban centers, enable the modern economy with reliable 24/7 energy for major industrials, and connect new customers to sources of power, enabling economic development. Microgrids are emerging as the next frontier in electric power, shaping the utility of the future around the world.
Reliability & Resiliency
Electric utilities are being challenged to improve service in the face of aging infrastructure, severe weather, and constraints on system expansion. A Congressional Research Service study estimates the (inflation-adjusted) cost of weather-related outages, such as those due to Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast, at $25 to $70 billion annually. Microgrids can play an important role by providing support services to the grid, ensuring resiliency to critical life and safety assets, and enabling economic activity during a grid outage.
Renewable Energy Integration
The deployment of distributed energy resources, especially behind-the-meter PV, is on the rise, and is expected to challenge the technical and economic operation of utility systems in many areas. Microgrids, with their advanced software and control systems, can help manage the aggregated impact of distributed renewables like small wind and solar, and facilitate integration with energy storage technology, like battery systems and pumped hydro, and controllable loads.
The desire for energy surety is a driving force behind the adoption of many microgrids globally. When the impact of a power outage could be millions of dollars in economic losses, the potential for reduced military readiness or, in a worst case scenario, loss of human life, making sure industrial manufacturers, military bases and critical care infrastructure have a reliable power supply even when the grid goes down, is vitally important.
Enhanced Quality of Life
As mentioned earlier, there are more than 1 billion people in the world without access to electricity. Microgrids can bring power to people who’ve never had it before, spurring new opportunities for people all over the world. These rural microgrids are often combined with renewables and some form of energy storage, and can be both economically and technically viable energy solutions for communities and villages remote from existing grid infrastructure.
Contact BurrowX for a feasibility study on your Microgrid needs