Using Microgrids in Solar Energy
Many consumers are not aware that on-grid solar power systems cannot supply power during power outages. Without a battery and inverter, your solar power system cannot provide uninterrupted power. Residents of the United States realized this flaw in their solar energy during the mega-storm of 2012 which cut-off power to over 8 million people. Even those who had solar panels installed at their homes suffered for over two weeks without electricity. Years later this misconception has still not been cleared. You can see homeowners and businesses making big investments in solar power assuming that it is going to prove useful during grid failure. Most people do not realize that they need a source of voltage to connect to in order to power their homes and appliances.
This misconception has continued for so long as people are not aware of the differences between terms like solar and solar microgrids. Most often people are seen using these terms in exchange for each other. They often describe their solar setup at homes or offices as microgrids even though they clearly are not. Microgrids have certain capabilities that set it apart from typical solar power systems connected to the grid.
So what are solar microgrids?
The main difference between typical solar power systems and solar microgrids lies in the microgrid's ability to operate independently from the main grid. Yes, microgrids can work in an isolated fashion in what is called the "Island mode". Imagine a natural disaster like a huge thunderstorm which can potentially knock off the power from one entire region. Now because in typical grids, all the sectors are connected, if one area goes down then the subsequent areas also face power outages. Connected directly to the grid, the solar panels also stop working. This is where microgrids come into the picture.
Solar microgrids are connected to the main grid during their normal operations. However, microgrids come equipped with control software that detects disruptions in the grid. If need be they can disconnect from the grid and provide solar energy independently. So, even when the main grid goes down, areas with solar microgrids can still remain operational. Thus, to put it simply, solar microgrids are not only a greener source of energy but are also more reliable.
Differences between community microgrids and solar communities.
Solar Communities are programs specifically designed for people who cannot implement their own solar power systems. Solar communities usually involve 3rd party developers who develop projects to supply solar power to a community. The consumers do not receive energy directly from such projects, rather the energy is given to the grid by the developers. The consumers who are a part of the community benefit by paying lower bills on their utility.Community solar microgrids, on the other hand, are used for emergencies. They are usually placed near hospitals, police stations, banks and stores for providing power to these basic utilities during power shutdowns. The motto of microgrids is "providing for the basic needs of the populace" during outages.
It is always advised to think solar “microgrids” while planning for community solar power systems. Most of the progressive-minded government officials are opting for microgrids while implementing solar power sources. Combining the efforts of solar community and solar microgrids can potentially result in the development of a useful system which is both green, has good enough power supply, and is energy reliable.