Microgrid Technology & Applications
Around the world, sustainable microgrids are emerging as a vital tool in the fight against climate change and natural disasters. In the wake of hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, traditional energy grids struggle to keep the power flowing, causing outages that slow local economies and put lives at risk.
What is a Microgrid?
Microgrids are relatively small, controllable power systems composed of one or more generation units connected to nearby users that can be operated either with or independently from the local high-voltage transmission system, sometimes referred to as the “macrogrid.”
Since the energy is created close to where it is used, microgrids can be considered of distributed electricity generators.
Historically, microgrids generated power using fossil fuel-fired combined heat and power (CHP) and reciprocating engine generators. Today, however, projects are increasingly leveraging more sustainable resources like solar power and energy storage. Microgrids can run on renewables, natural gas-fuelled combustion turbines, or emerging sources such as fuel cells or even small modular nuclear reactors, as they become commercially available in the future.
Microgrids can power critical facilities after a weather- or security-related outage affects the broader grid. Microgrids can also be the main electricity source for a hospital, university, or neighbourhood. While single-user and campus microgrids, such as those that serve an industrial site or military base, have existed for decades, many cities are now interested in systems that can better integrate generation resources and load, serve multiple users, and meet environmental or emergency response objectives.
Why Would a Community Choose to Connect to a Microgrid?
A microgrid not only provides backup for the main grid in case of emergencies, but can also be used to cut costs, or connect to a local resource that is too small or unreliable for traditional grid use. A microgrid allows communities to be more energy independent and, in some cases, more environmentally friendly, employing only 'green energy' sources.
It is the latter use that we will discuss here.