How can decentralized energy and microgrids contribute to a better planet?

 

Enhancing the aging grid with new infrastructure and the software to deliver our climate goals is a wider piece of the energy transition Smarter Grid Solutions is contributing towards. Secure, affordable, and reliable electricity is non-negotiable for the continuous powering of our livelihoods. With this in mind, we must think about how we can produce and deliver a vastly increased amount of electrical energy (e.g., for transport, commerce, and industry) without compromising the secure loading of the grid. Thinking of our current grid and grappling with the phasing out fossil generation, decentralized energy offers the opportunity to optimize the operation of alternative power generation, storage and local energy and deliver a new model of power.

 

The centralized power system that Edison birthed in the US matters if we are thinking towards a future with possible full electrification of our energy needs. The electrical power system in the United States is sustained through the North American transmission grid (spanning the US and Canada) with its Eastern, Western, and Texas Interconnections powering nearly the entire continent. Electricity cannot be stored in large quantities- it must be used at the instant it is generated, flowing through all transmission lines towards consumers. That generation and transmission process must be monitored to keep each of those massive-scale interconnections in balance at each instant. Demand response programs and peaker plants are called on at times of maximum demand.  It is not expected that the rise of decentralized energy models or microgrids remove the fundamental value that a centralized, interconnected system delivers, but certain important aspects do change.

 

Microgrids are a cluster of distributed energy resources, usually with some embedded network connecting them. They are a small, sometimes modular power resource, constituted of various technologies that operate locally, sometimes in islanded operation, and connect to the local power grid in some cases. This special class of decentralized power infrastructure allows communities to manage the intermittent generation from renewable resources and use the output locally or release the power to the grid when it is most needed.

 

Microgrid manager systems such as Smarter Grid Solutions' Strata Resilience product deliver grid-connected, island, and black start operations while optimizing the value of microgrid assets for customers, with grids and market integration. Decreasing costs and increasing maturity and value from each of the constituent parts of a turnkey microgrid enables the people and institutions in remote or low-income areas to consider the installation of microgrids as a cost-effective investment and for investors in the microgrids to gain assurance of delivery of the expected benefits. 

 

Decarbonization of power production does not diminish the value and necessity of an interconnected, transmission system-based design. But decentralized power production does. Microgrids raise the opportunity to reduce dependence on large-scale, centralized and transmission transported energy. And microgrids, by producing electrical energy in the communities, campuses, and hospitals they supply, provide the means of securing and restoring power locally without the level of dependence on large-scale generation and transmission infrastructure. Powering microgrids with clean energy helps decrease emissions and deliver the net-zero goals that are now so urgent for extending the Earth's viability for humanity.

 

The integration of microgrids and related DER assets does not necessarily mean a pathway to grid decentralization. But the ultimate outcome of the centralization/decentralization question is much less important than the issues of local resilience and completely retiring non-renewable power sources. Supporting the implementation of microgrids among the communities that need it the most, we also help in creating viable solutions that mitigate electrical demand growth and provide reliable power for larger institutions. Microgrids are still an incremental step in clean, decentralized energy development. If their development continues at the pace and along the clean energy pathway that we see today then they will make a larger contribution to decreasing overall carbon emissions and creating a more economic and equitable power system.

Learn more about Strata Resilience

 

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