An Island With A Bridge: Microgrids Plug Into Utilities

via Berkley Labs

In a recent call with a client, we heard a facilities manager dismiss a move to create their own microgrid. The technology was there, the interest was there, the plan was there, but he was still nervous. He didn’t want to be ‘on an island’. 

It gave us a great opportunity to remind businesses that the move to operating as your own microgrid isn’t cutting your company off from the energy grid. Instead, the microgrid allows a facility to produce, store, and distribute its own electrical production with the ability to switch outside energy input with the flip of a switch. Done right, and microgrids could even sell electricity back to the utility company! 

A microgrid is simply that; it has a number of energy production capabilities (wind, solar, etc.) and a number of loads that draw upon those production capacities. These loads are the power required to run everything from lights to machinery, the office printer to the hydraulic press. These loads are always changing, and at times demand goes beyond the supply of power. That’s where energy storage comes in. Huge batteries can now store enough electricity to bridge the gap between a facility’s average energy supply and it’s peak load, or the times of day that energy demand is at its highest. 

Our worried facilities manager didn’t trust that the energy storage system proposed would be able to shoulder that burden, causing stoppages. Of course, the microgrid isn’t an island; even when it’s not drawing power from the macrogrid, it’s still very much connected, and can bring in additional electricity at any point. 

The key to reducing that need comes down to load shedding practices that nearly every company already has in place, plus successfully identifying the complete energy picture now and making educated predictions for the years ahead. Planning for current electrical needs and adding additional supply and storage capacity on a set timeline can help firms plan their growth, plan their budget, and make the most of on-going rebates from utilities, state, and federal programs dedicated to improving industrial energy efficiency. 

Microgrids are already changing how companies take control of their energy future and reducing the financial impact of expensive, costly, and sometimes unreliable supply from the macrogrid. At Keen, we’re partnering with companies that are ready to move forward and create an energy grid that gives them the tools to save money, do more, and save the planet in the process.