Microgrids deliver resiliency, security and savings
The term microgrid suggests thinking small, but the big picture for these IoT-based energy technologies is how they could revolutionize the distribution of electrical energy around the world.
Microgrids—often also referred to as smart grids—are essentially subsets of the larger electrical utility grids, designed to give organizations greater control over their energy resources and to make better use of utility-provided energy in conjunction with locally produced power.
In a published report—The U.S. Department of Energy’s Microgrid Initiative—the DoE defines a microgrid as “a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid.”
The definition continues with a key feature that achieves one of the primary goals of microgrid implementation: “A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island-mode.’’
Islanding provides the mechanism for microgrid owners to realize improved resiliency when the utility grid may not provide adequate—or any—electrical power.
“The main reason [for microgrid implementations] in the U.S.—which is the world’s leading market for microgrids that are connected to the grid—is . . . unreliability,” noted Peter Asmus, who tracks emerging energy distribution networks in his role as a research director for Navigant Research.
Of course, resiliency also means that an organization can produce its own power when needed.
“The biggest key is just in the area of resiliency, and that [microgrids] can provide the opportunity to island from the grid,” noted Justin Brant, a senior associate with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) a nonprofit clean energy advocacy group. “When the grid may be down, you can still provide basic services.”
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