The Future of Microgrid Systems
Electricity blackouts are a common phenomenon even in the most developed countries. There can be several reasons for the blackouts e.g. faults, natural disasters, etc.
The traditional grid system is although a reliable source of power and provides electricity continuously most of the time. However, it is still prone to damage in case of natural disasters or severe weather conditions.
To address this situation, the concept of microgrid was introduced. Microgrids operate either independently or in combination with the main grid. Thus, increasing the resiliency and flexibility of the power system.
What is a Microgrid?
As the name suggests, a microgrid is basically a scaled-down version of the traditional electrical grid. It contains its own energy source and a distribution system and can operate either independently or in conjunction with the main grid.
A microgrid works exactly like the main grid. The only difference is that it is a localized grid i.e. for a smaller region—a local village or a town etc.
Why do We Need a Microgrid System?
Hurricane Maria destroyed the island of Puerto Rico in 2017. Like all the other infrastructure, the electrical power infrastructure was also destroyed and there was a complete blackout.
Blackout in such a serious condition can cause havoc, especially in a hospital full of patients. Loss of electricity in a hospital even for a small duration is life-threatening. And when the whole power system gets destroyed, the results can be devastating.
The above issue can be resolved if the hospitals are equipped with their own energy sources that can be used to extract energy in case of the unavailability of the main grid. In other words, “a microgrid”.
This microgrid runs parallel to the main grid. The hospital can connect either to the main grid or the microgrid as needed.
Another advantage of the microgrid is easy maintenance. Let’s say if the solar panels of the microgrid get damaged, they can be replaced easily and quickly. Thus, increasing the resiliency of the overall system.
The Rise of the Microgrid System
The concept of a microgrid is not new. In fact, it is the same concept as the traditional grid. But, due to the unavailability of energy generating units at the local level, this concept could not be implemented for a long time.
But the times have changed now. We are now capable of harnessing energy from renewable energy sources like solar, wind, tidal, etc. Due to these renewable energy sources, localized energy generation is now possible. This has brought the concept of the microgrid system to life.
At present, the microgrid system is not just limited to solar and other renewable energy sources. Today’s microgrids incorporate traditional as well as modern generation methods including diesel power plants, gas turbines, solar, wind, tidal, etc.
Applications of Microgrid
Microgrids have a vast number of applications in different areas. They increase the resiliency and flexibility of the overall power system. Their applications range from hospitals, schools, local community to emergency response units, fire departments, etc.
A microgrid can be connected to a single hospital or school etc. as an individual microgrid. Or it can also be connected to two or three adjacent buildings or a small village as a smaller grid network within the main grid.
Moreover, a microgrid can work either independently or in combination with the main grid. When used independently it can be viewed as an electrically isolated island. While in the combination mode, it can be used as a backup power source in case of unavailability of power from the main grid—a blackout.
Furthermore, microgrids feature their own power generation sources like solar panels, etc. When power from these sources is in excess, it can be transmitted back to the main grid. This gives the microgrid owners either a compensation in the utility bills or an additional income.
Future of the Microgrid System
We have already discussed the advantages of microgrids and how they can revolutionize the energy sector. Even though the microgrids are seen as the solution to modern energy problems, they are still in the initial phase. However, it is a fact that microgrids are the future of the power system.
According to International Energy Agency’s projections; by 2030, almost half of the newly constructed households will be powered by microgrids.
At present, due to the higher costs involved in renewable energy sources, microgrids still have to rely on fossil fuel sources. But, with the passing time, as the renewable energy sources are getting cheaper, more affordable, and cost-effective, significant growth in microgrid systems is expected in the coming years.
Moreover, in the developing world, microgrids can electrify the remote areas which could not be connected to the main grid due to a lack of infrastructure. But, with the microgrid systems, they don’t need the infrastructure anymore.
Microgrids are the solution for the ever-growing and demanding power sector. They provide a reliable, efficient and cost-effective power system that directly translates into better living standards.
Microgrids also provide a lot of advantages for the overall power system. These advantages include an increase in resiliency and flexibility of the power system and a decrease in pollution due to the integration of renewable sources.
Microgrids are, without a doubt, the future of power system. The need is to realize their potential and take the necessary steps to make this technology available to everyone.