Island Mode Success Cases Demonstrate Effectiveness of Microgrids in Sustainable Energy Infrastructure

Island Mode Success Cases Demonstrate Effectiveness of Microgrids in Sustainable Energy Infrastructure

Supporting grid independence and the ability to efficiently combine, monitor, and manage a variety of energy resources, microgrids are key components in sustainability.

Energy users can benefit from integrating renewable technologies with storage capacity, and an overall system to combine all resources. Many locations, particularly those in remote areas, are already reaping the benefits of such an infrastructure and a variety of systems that work in combination to provide full energy security.

To help implement a decentralized, safeguarded resource supply, Team Gemini integrates multiple technologies in its overall development approach. As part of closed-loop, consistent renewable energy, the application of microgrids within a facility’s utility management infrastructure is essential in combining different energy sources, backup power, and more.

A recent 100% renewables test operation in Champaign, Illinois featured a successful demonstration of island-mode operations. Islanding, as it’s also known, is helpful in case of an energy outage; if one occurs, the microgrid controller disconnects the local circuit from the grid on a dedicated switch and forces the distributed generator(s) to power the entire local load. “The test focused specifically on the 50-kW microgrid at the site, which powers an Ameren research facility. The complete microgrid includes 225 kW of renewable generation (PV solar and wind) and 250 kW / 500 kWh of battery energy storage.”

Microgrids can get complex and require a variety of assets to implement. However, as ABB highlights on the topic of offsetting those costs:

Like any capital project, implementing a microgrid involves an investment in infrastructure, including the power sources and the technologies needed to manage and connect the microgrid to the main grid.

The capital outlay required for a microgrid, however, is often much less and payback is significantly faster than other initiatives to improve the availability and reliability of electricity. A number of other factors help offset the cost of a microgrid:

  • Greater fuel choice: Solar and wind power are ‘free of charge’ fuels and can significantly reduce operational expenses. While wind turbines and diesel generators are probably the two most common sources of power for established microgrids, natural gas, solar, fuel cells and biomass are all becoming increasingly feasible.
  • Lower cost of power losses: As much as 6-10 percent of energy is lost in transmission and distribution. Microgrids are local and the power consumed has less distance to travel to the consumer.
  • Additional revenue streams: In some regions, energy markets allow microgrid operators to sell the excess power generated. In addition, the heat generated from the source powering the microgrid can be used to create an additional revenue stream. For example, steam might be used to power up additional generators, or hot water could be used for absorption chilling.
  • Flexibility and scalability: Finally, the capital expenditure can be spread over several years: the technology allows for the microgrid to develop in stages, adding more generation as needed over time.

One can also add the benefits of Anaerobic Digestion (AD) and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units. These are developed through Team Gemini’s bio-refinery, and include the flexibility of storing biogas, methane gas, CNG, and other feedstock-related resources. These can be used and processed through CHPs as needed. In other words, this already allows for some form of energy storage for use with a microgrid, and can also be combined with solar, wind, and fossil fuel sources.

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