With the recent surge of renewable energy projects, driven by accelerated cost reductions, centralized energy production is becoming less and less attractive.
(Note the community microgrid island graphic has both power and geothermal with a centralized management platform. Originated in Germany. Art)
A microgrid is designed to provide uninterrupted power and can balance load demands for a company or organization with changing power needs. It can operate either as part of the traditional grid or independently (or both). Since microgrids are not dependant on the traditional grid, their stability in challenging situations (eg. heavy weather and power outages) offers enhanced resiliency for communities and businesses. Microgrids also allow for power to be generated locally, rather than transmitted from one central utility source, therefore making it easier to keep it safe from physical and cyber threats. Also, sophisticated software can allow operators to optimize power usage based on demand, utility prices, and other factors.
As the prices of solar panels and wind turbines keep decreasing, more and more business cases for microgrids are emerging, and fast. “I want you to walk away with the conclusion that positive business cases for microgrids are already here,” said Wouter Vermeiden, Manager Business Development at ZOWN, during a webinar on grid-connected microgrids last week. ZOWN, an energy initiative from Energy Exchange Enablers (EXE), develops several types of microgrids, which help to integrate different forms of renewables. Amongst others, they offer microgrid platforms that use a combination of both PV & wind; microgrids that can be linked directly to the energy market; and microgrids that can connect solar PV directly onto a local AC or DC installation, like a factory or stadium. Connecting a microgrid directly to a local demand source allows for some significant benefits, including 50% lower investment costs (compared to network connection), lower transportation costs and a shorter installation period.