How New Digitalized Controls Make Microgrids Better

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The evolution of power grid is trending towards an infrastructure that is more decarbonized, decentralized and digitized. Changes are already underway and technology breakthroughs in modernized microgrids’ area are playing a big role in fueling the transition.

Microgrids represent a wide array of decentralized energy infrastructures made up of interconnected distributed energy resources (DER) characterized by controllable loads, energy storage system, digitized controls and (most often) renewable energy generation sources. A microgrid can operate in parallel with the traditional grid or in an intentional islanded mode.

In the face of natural disasters, terrorism, climate change, and volatile energy pricing, businesses are demanding alternatives for securing their own forms of energy. Microgrids are seen as pockets of stability and resiliency.

People and organizations value microgrids:

  • they represent a source of reliable energy (during main grid power outages, for example)
  • they provide a source of clean “green” energy
  • they offer the flexibility of enabling efficiency and optimization. They favor the use of energy when it’s cheap – switching back and forth between the grid/microgrid – based on supply and pricing decisions.

In short, microgrids are energy systems that are effective at minimizing cost, and maximizing efficiency and uptime, and broadening energy access to those isolated communities who have been without access in the past.

The benefits of microgrids are multi-layered:

  • Sustainability. From a sustainability perspective, connected microgrids optimize self consumption of locally produced renewables.
  • When demand is high, use of microgrid power assets help to offset the need to use CO2-generating, older, inefficient peaker plants.
  • Affordability, Profitability. ROI (in the case of remote microgrids, for example) can be obtained within 5 years as a result of minimized fuel usage.

 Digitalized Controls optimize your microgrid…

Modernized controls are key to manage the high efficiencies of microgrids. Regardless of whether the microgrid supports remote industrial sites (e.g., to power mining operations), prosumer groups (smart campuses and buildings that both consume and generate power), smart districts, or remote communities (like distant islands).

Automated controls allow for

  • operation of field devices (i.e., voltage and frequency regulation)
  • transition between on and off-grid operation status
  • optimization of when to most efficiently produce, consume, store or sell energy

These controls enable both energy management and microgrid power balancing.

 …Without you being an energy expert!

The newest generation of microgrids has become much smarter due to the integration of digitalized, predictive technologies. Cloud-based solutions serve multiple roles such as:

  • providing a Human Machine Interface (HMI) for the facility manager,
  • processing demand / response requests,
  • optimizing output decisions based on energy tariff rates and weather forecast predictions,
  • and factoring in user / customer constraints.

In fact, today’s best tools are highly automated with an intuitive interface so that ease of use is optimized within the design. As a result, owners and operators of microgrids need not be technically astute energy experts to manage their microgrids. They can use these cloud-based optimization control tools minimize their energy bills and carbon footprint.

To learn more about microgrid control, download our free white paper “How new microgrid technologies enable optimal cooperation among distributed energy resources.”

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