The Microgrid Revolution: How Localized Energy Systems are Changing the Game
As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for energy. At the same time, climate change is forcing us to think more carefully about how we generate and use that energy. One solution to both problems is the use of microgrids. In this blog post, we will explore the compelling case for microgrids and the benefits they offer.
What are microgrids?
A microgrid is a small-scale, localized energy system that can operate independently or in conjunction with the larger power grid. Microgrids use a variety of energy sources, including renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, as well as traditional sources like natural gas and diesel. They can be deployed in a variety of settings, including commercial and industrial facilities, residential neighborhoods, and remote areas.
The case for microgrids
There are several compelling reasons to consider using microgrids:
- Energy resiliency: One of the primary benefits of microgrids is their ability to provide energy resiliency. In the event of a power outage or other disruption to the larger power grid, a microgrid can continue to generate and distribute power to its users. This can be especially important for critical facilities like hospitals, data centers, and military bases.
- Cost savings: Microgrids can also provide significant cost savings if used properly and can include renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. Additionally, microgrids can help reduce peak demand charges by shifting energy usage to off-peak times.
- Environmental benefits: Microgrids are powered by ultra clean thermal sources that provide a cleaner source of power than the traditional peaker power plant that it replaces. By generating power locally, microgrids can also reduce the need for long-distance transmission lines, which can have significant environmental impacts.
- Improved energy efficiency: Microgrids can also help improve energy efficiency by providing more precise control over energy production. By monitoring and optimizing energy usage close to the point of consumption, waste is reduced, and overall energy efficiency is improved.
- Increased energy independence: Finally, microgrids can help increase energy independence by reducing reliance on the larger power grid when there are grid challenges.
There are numerous examples of microgrids in use today, each with its own unique set of benefits. Here are a few examples:
- The Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, California, is home to one of the largest microgrids in the United States. The microgrid uses a combination of solar panels, fuel cells, and energy storage to generate and distribute power to the jail and nearby facilities. The microgrid has helped reduce the jail’s energy costs by more than $100,000 per year.
- In rural Alaska, microgrids are helping to bring reliable energy to remote communities that are not connected to the larger power grid. The Alaska Energy Authority has developed a program to help these communities install and operate microgrids that use renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
- The U.S. military is also using microgrids to improve energy resiliency and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California, uses a microgrid that includes solar panels, energy storage, and a combined heat and power system to provide power to the base. The microgrid has helped reduce the base’s energy costs by more than $1 million per year.
- Houston, Texas has been an early mover in the behind the meter microgrid market development over the last 10 years, where cities and MUDs have embraced the technology and have also served to reduce costs and minimize risks.
What is the step change that could be happening in Texas?
There have been small microgrids in Texas being deployed behind the meter at commercial and industrial sites for reliability for the last 10 years. What looks to change is the opportunity to create a microgrid that uses the distribution wires and poles to provide reliability to large areas of need. When the Texas market was structured, the microgrid that leverages the distribution grid infrastructure was not an option in the way it is today. There have been large technological advances and the conditions in the grid warrant using a microgrid to create resiliency. The Texas elected representatives are learning about the benefits to both the grid, homeowners, and businesses of having this option. At Acclaim, we value the competitive energy market and the creation of this option to enhance reliability, resiliency, and cost reduction.
As we face the challenges of a growing population and a changing climate, microgrids offer a compelling solution to our energy challenges. By providing energy resiliency, reliability, cost savings, environmental benefits, improved energy efficiency, and increased energy independence it certainly seems that the microgrid should be a major part of our energy future.
Explanation of Acclaims’ Role:
Acclaim has served as the customers advocate in many of the initial use cases of the microgrid solution. This has included Cities, MUDs, Hospitals and Nursing Homes in Texas. Their expertise has enabled customers to procure these solutions in the optimal manner.