What Is a Microgrid and How Does It Work?
The rise of environmental awareness and a vast improvement in technology has driven many to look for alternatives to existing power generation methods. One solution is the microgrid. But what is a microgrid, how does it work and why should you use one?
This article aims to answer all those questions and more!
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What is a microgrid?
A microgrid is a small scale version of the national grid. It includes renewable power generation, distribution and control.
It is not a single home with solar panels and batteries. It is a system that includes power generation, storage, distribution to multiple properties and intelligent control for efficient energy use.
A microgrid can be used to power multiple buildings or even entire villages. It will have sufficient power to provide most, if not all, the energy requirements of those connected properties.
It can also be isolated from the national grid if required, allowing the microgrid to be fully self-sufficient for a time.
A microgrid includes:
- Solar panels sufficient for demand
- A wind turbine or backup generator for reliability
- Batteries sufficient to store the generated energy
- Energy inverters and controllers to deliver power to properties
- Connections and accessories to ensure the entire system works
- A switch to connect the microgrid to the national grid
Many microgrid solutions can be built small and scaled up to meet evolving needs. All using renewable sources!
How do microgrids work?
Microgrids work in the same way as the national grid, just without nuclear power stations and pylons blotting the landscape.
A microgrid generates energy using renewable sources, usually solar panels. It stores that energy in battery banks for when it’s needed. Those batteries are connected to control hardware that makes sure every property connected to the grid has the energy they need, when they need it.
Each property connects to the microgrid in much the same way you connect to the national grid, through cables.
Microgrids can be used as a sole energy source for an off-grid situation or as a backup or clean alternative to the national grid. Properties can be fitted to both grids and will use an intelligent controller to switch between the two.
As long as there are sufficient generation sources and storage capacities, a microgrid could power connected properties almost indefinitely.
Considering building a microgrid? Speak to the experts at Sunstore. We can help!
What benefits do microgrids bring?
Microgrids bring many benefits. Some are immediate while others will prove their worth in the future or if the worst happens.
Those benefits include:
Energy from renewable sources
Renewables are the future and can theoretically provide free energy forever.
While the national grid is cleaning up its act, it is still dependent on nuclear power stations and coal or gas for backup. Microgrids use renewable energy generated by solar panels with optional wind turbines for backup.
The world is shifting towards renewable energy and microgrids are an opportunity to get ahead of that.
The ability to generate clean, renewable energy from the sun and/or wind and control and distribute it locally is an incredibly powerful incentive. One many Sunstore customers have already taken advantage of!
Local power with local control
Most microgrids are privately funded so can be controlled locally. That means an estate, group of properties or an entire village can generate, store and distribute their own energy locally and under their control.
It also means more efficiency as the transport grid is much smaller. The further energy travels, the more it dissipates. It is estimated that up to 15% of generated power is lost during distribution.
Scalable energy to meet demands
A key benefit of microgrids is that they are scalable. If your development grows, your grid can grow with it. Need more energy? Need more solar panels? Need more storage capacity? Bolt on more panels or add more batteries.
Microgrids are modular by their very nature and can be expanded to meet evolving demands with minimum cost and disruption.
Independent power source
A microgrid can be truly independent as in off-grid or be connected to the grid with the option of disconnecting using an automatic switch. This provides energy independence, something we may need in the future.
The national grid can barely deliver current demands. The rise in electric vehicles, more technology and gadgets that require constant charging are only going to increase that demand.
The lack of investment in power stations and the grid as a whole is going to come to crisis at some point. Having your own, independent power source could be the best bit of future proofing you ever do!
Power to remote communities
In situations where power supply may be unreliable or intermittent, having a microgrid can be the perfect solution. The ability to generate your own green energy, store it and distribute it efficiently means you should never be without power.
Used as a backup, a microgrid can automatically switch in the event of mains failure and provide uninterrupted energy. That can be a significant benefit in some regions!
Microgrids and the future
Microgrids are a viable method of delivering reliable energy to multiple properties. They leverage clean, renewable sources, short distribution networks and intelligent control to extract the maximum efficiency and value out of that energy and ensure as little as possible is wasted.
For those reasons alone, microgrids deserve to have a place in future developments and renewable energy projects.
If you’re planning your own microgrid on any scale, contact the experts at Sunstore today. We can help!
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