Although not new, many sites have traditionally used embedded backup generators for emergency power. Typically used in hospitals or public institutions, microgrids have transformed the design of large scale installations to provide for efficient energy management and dependability. Through a combination of solar, natural gas generators, and on-site storage, microgrids can provide the reliability of continuous power even when there are local utility outages. A secondary benefit of microgrids is the presence of clean, efficient, economic, highly reliable and local controlled power.
In the event of an unplanned outage, critical loads such as HVAC, refrigeration, lighting, security and control systems, can stay connected with local generators, while other noncritical loads within the microgrid can be isolated and dropped as required.
Beyond emergency disruptions, microgrids also afford consumers the opportunity to reduce the cost of peak power by generating power on-site to supplement utility provided power. This practice is called peak load demand management. In some areas, microgrids can also benefit consumers by providing a choice using local generation or load management to comply with utility curtailment requests during peak hours.
Microgids provide stability not only in dependable power but also with volatile energy pricing that can fluctuate by the day and even by the hour. The microgrid business model is different from the traditional utility business model in that microgrids can function on their own or in coordination with the main grid. With seamless integration, microgrids can operate in parallel with the utility power and transition to self-sufficient mode in times of utility disruptions.
Microgrid subsystems rely on some core technology components in order to function as intended. Renewable resources, such as solar, can be variable by nature. So a tight integration of the network, generation, storage, metering and software infrastructure is needed. Sensors and automation provide the control mechanisms to improve load distribution and help accommodate millisecond changes in the network. Smart meters deliver real-time information about consumption and usage trends. Predictive modeling software helps in forecasting energy peak demand times and allocates resources to operate and maintain a healthy microgrid.
Using weather and customer behavior to forecast loads
Using detailed local forecast for peak solar times
Adapt the network to dynamic loads and variations in generation to maintain grid stability
Adaptive protection and control for faults that can come from the main grid
Control demand in real time
Reset all operation settings for stable operation while disconnected from the grid