What is Grid Independence? Role of Microgrids
One of the prime objectives of any industry is to reduce costs on operations. One of the major sources of overhead costs is the cost of energy. Managing energy can be a daunting task. There are several things that are to be considered such as quality of power, instances of blackouts, regulations and utility bills among others.
Most companies today are striving for energy independence that is manageable within the regulations. Fortunately, the world is moving towards the trend of using microgrids. The concept of a localized microgrid with independent power generation has many strategic advantages. Some of their key advantages are mentioned below.
- Enhanced Power Delivery- Microgrids are typically designed for a small facility or community. Their design incorporates the routine load consumption patterns. Since these grids are based on a careful energy plan, the quality of power is maintained. Every load is accounted for and there are no major fluctuations within the system. This is not only more efficient, but also is safer for the various electrical devices used in factories and homes.
- Independent and Reliable- Power outages are a common phenomenon with traditional grid systems. Such outages are unpredictable in nature. Even with power-backup solutions, random outages can cause great damage to the operations of various devices and processes. Microgrids have the ability to operate in “island” mode, meaning they can independently retain power within the grid.
- It is Cost-effective- There are numerous ways in which microgrids save capital. Firstly, since microgrids are planned, the consumption patterns are optimized. This means that the facilities are using the energy efficiently. Power outages also cause significant loss of capital. In the US consumers pay around $150 billion every year due to power outages. By combating such outages microgrids and save significant costs. Finally, with microgrids, there are no transmission costs involved as the system is completely local.
Upgrading Grids for Independence
Upgrading or establishing a microgrid or any kind of independent network has 4 basic phases to it.
- The first phase involves establishing proper energy management systems and smart tools that optimize the energy consumption of the locality or facility. Using energy devices and lightings, HVAC updates and establishing envelopes are a part of efficient energy management. This also calls for proper transparency in the usage patterns and advanced metering capabilities.
- The second involves on-site energy generation capabilities. This can take the form of gas turbines which are produced less than 50 Megawatt, diesel-based generators, renewable energy sources like solar or wind and other forms of energy storage media.
- The third phase involves the use of control systems and system balancing devices. Through the use of these tools, the grid performance is optimized and demand response programs are established accordingly.
- The final phase involves testing the island-mode operation of the microgrid. The microgrid that has been implemented, must automatically switch from regular operations to island ode upon detecting disturbances or outages in the main grid. Once this capability has been tested, the independent grid is now ready for use.