A solar microgrid is a relatively small, controllable power system composed of one or more generation units connected to nearby users that can be operated with, or independently from, the local bulk transmission system, typically a local utility company. Solar microgrids can disconnect from the main grid to function autonomously in “island mode.”
Due to the increase in severe weather and natural (and planned) power outages, microgrids are fast becoming an essential part of modernizing electricity consumption with renewable energy that can be stored and used for later use.
The most frequently asked questions about solar microgrids are answered below by Stem + AlsoEnergy’s industry-leading thought leaders along with general information that will bring you up-to-speed on the latest with microgrids.
General facts about microgrids
Over the last few years, microgrid deployments throughout the world have increased. Stem expects this trend to continue as market projections point to steadily increasing annual microgrid capacity, spending, and incentives. Here are a few general facts about microgrids:
- Microgrids can help communities’ critical facilities that need energy resilience during extreme weather and Public Safety Power Shutoff events
- Most microgrids range in size from from 100 kilowatts (kW) to multiple megawatts (MW)
- According to Wood Mackenzie, over 3,600 microgrid projects are currently operational, under construction, or planned
- Microgrids can serve a single building, multiple customers in a limited geographic area, or customers across an entire community
- Interest in microgrids is growing because of their ability to incorporate renewable energy sources and sustain electricity service during natural disasters
Which types of end users benefit from a microgrid?
Customers with electric loads from buildings or electric vehicle (EV) charging stations that could be powered by islanded generation units can benefit from a solar microgrid. End users who benefit from a microgrid include municipalities (e.g., WWTP), campuses, and commercial & industrial customers, federal agencies, and electric cooperatives. Solar microgrid developers include ESCO, electrical contractors, and solar project developers.
What is Stem’s intelligent microgrid solution?
As an industry leader for over 10 years working with Fortune 500 companies and the U.S.’s largest utilities, Stem is uniquely positioned to configure microgrids that maximize value for customers. Stem’s microgrid solution consists of an advanced energy storage system (ESS), a custom-built microgrid controller, and our Athena® AI-driven software – all integral components of a clean energy intelligence platform. An Athena-powered microgrid balances and optimizes all connected distributed energy resources (DERs) to:
- Generate renewable energy
- Store excess energy for later use, for example, during expensive on-peak hours
- Enable “island mode” to operate independently from the main power grid during natural disasters or planned outages
- Distribute excess energy to the main grid for revenue generation
Figure 1 shows how Stem’s intelligent ESS can operate as a microgrid.
Figure 1: Stem’s ESS as a microgrid
Why partner with Stem + AlsoEnergy for solar microgrid projects?
When you partner with Stem, not only do you gain access to our best-in-class Athena software and our proprietary microgrid controller, you also benefit from:
- Custom consulting for the design, implementation, and continual support of your microgrid projects
- 24/7 network operations center that monitors the customer load and onsite DERs
- Automated, intelligent revenue generation and utility bill optimization that requires zero manual input from onsite personnel
- Athena is cloud-based and can remain up-and-running through a cellular modem and a wide-area network (WAN) network even when the power or the Internet goes down
Are there incentives for building energy storage projects that could include a solar microgrid?
Incentives are available on a regional basis for energy storage projects. For example:
- California’s Self-generation Incentive Program (SGIP)
- Hawaii’s Battery Bonus Program
- Massachusetts’ SMART Program
- New York’s Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER)
- Ontario’s Global Adjustment Program
Are there any design constraints when considering a microgrid solution?
Stem’s energy experts guide you through a detailed and technical design process to:
- Appropriate sizing to ensure your microgrid can meet demand
- Ensure a grounding transformer is used to support single phase loads
- Apply ground fault protection for island situations
- PV inverters should have modbus communication and should have the ability to be curtailed remotely
- Employ load management devices such as relays or integration to manage the load
Interesting links to resources about Microgrids:
- PG&E’s Community Microgrid Enablement Program
- DOD Demonstrates Mobile Microgrid Technology
- Microgrids – Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
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