What Exactly Are Microgrids?

A microgrid is an energy module within a larger power source and can be disconnected from the main grid as needed. Microgrids are being used in various settings to create redundancy, to expand services in underserved locations and to model potential hazards of planned operations.

Key Features of Microgrids

Microgrids share a number characteristics, regardless of their exact configuration.

Energy Storage

Microgrids are hardware independent and their exact configuration can vary based on factors such as location and available resources. The most common type of energy stored is electricity but microgrids can be used to store thermal or mechanical energy if needed.

Electronic Configuration

Microgrids frequently feature assets like solar power or microturbines. The use of variable power sources requires interfaces that can harness and convert energy types.

Most distributed energy sources lose power when they are converted to another type of energy. Microgrids are configured with interfaces that minimize power loss, thus helping to conserve energy and to minimize the cost of providing electricity.

Efficiency Requirements

To achieve maximum efficiency, a microgrid must meet the following functional specifications.

  • Each microgrid must be able to function as a unified entity to properly interface with the main power grid.
  • Each grid must remain within its own power requirements and cannot borrow power from the main grid or from adjoining microgrids.
  • The microgrid must be able to regulate its own voltage and frequency internally.
  • Each unit must be able to deploy resources as needed to maintain energy output requirements.
  • A microgrid must be able to safely connect and reconnect with the main power grid during synchronization operations.

Implementation of Microgrids

Microgrids are often used in water treatment plants, transportation units and health care facilities. Their ability to create redundancy and failover make microgrids an indispensable part of technologies that are employed in mission-critical and time-sensitive operations.

Microgrids provide fault tolerance, bring energy to diverse geographic locations and offer a means to create alternative power sources. These features make microgrids an important solution that offers an opportunity to underserved locations and that promises to promote sustainability for our planet.

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