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Microgrids: What Are They and How Do They Work?

By October 6, 2022October 17th, 2022Blog
Illustration of solar battery storage units with solar panels and wind turbines.

Solar energy is the energy source, and many people are now expressing interest in it. The main reason so many customers are interested in this product is because of the resiliency and reliance it offers in case of an emergency.

If the grid goes dark for any reason, solar shoppers want a steady supply of electricity by generating and storing solar electricity. So, what is the best possible solution for it? The answer is microgrid.

As a response to power outages during different storm events, this innovative method allows you to maintain greater reliability. So, what is a microgrid? How does it work? And what are the benefits that you can get from it? We will discuss all those things in this article.

What is a Microgrid?

A microgrid is a compressed form of a large grid that supplies power throughout the country. The microgrid has its own controlling capability, which means it can operate autonomously by disconnecting itself from the grid. Simply put, the microgrid works like a traditional grid, but it is only for a small geographical area.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has set clear criteria for the Microgrid Exchange Group (MEG). According to the DOE, a microgrid is a group of interconnected loads that will operate as a controllable entity concerning the grid.

The main thing about the microgrid is that it connects and disconnects from the grid. As a result, it can function in an island mode independently or with the grid. In order to meet the consumers’ electricity needs, the microgrid needs a source to generate power.

Since microgrids have been around for quite some time, the grid usually gets electricity from non-renewable sources such as fossil fuels, gas-powered generators, etc. But, now that solar is the cheapest energy source in the world and doesn’t have any environmental impact, many are starting to use it for microgrids.

Most microgrids that are now available come with solar plus battery storage. This way, they can use a reliable and renewable energy source and ensure that they have a backup for when the grid goes dark.

How do Microgrids Work?

Microgrids operate in the same manner as the national grid. The only difference is that they don’t have any nuclear power stations smudging the geographical area. Instead, the microgrid will use various sources of renewable energy, mostly solar panels.

The microgrid will generate and store the energy in its battery banks for later. Those batteries have a connection with control hardware, ensuring that every grid property will get the energy when needed. Every property has a connection with the microgrid through cables.

Microgrids are an alternative energy source that provides you with electricity in an off-grid situation. It is also a great alternative if you want clean energy. Each property will have a controller that allows the consumers to switch from one grid to another. If there is a good generation source and storage capacity, the microgrids can provide power to the properties for a long time.

What Role Does a Microgrid Play?

The national grid provides electricity throughout the country to businesses, homes, and other properties. It powers electrical appliances, HVAC systems (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and other devices. However, the national grid won’t provide any power if it goes down for any reason.

Therefore, you won’t receive any electricity until the problem with the grid is resolved. That is where a microgrid comes into play. While it is usually connected to the grid, it can operate independently. The microgrids can use the local power generation in situations where the grid’s power supply is cut, such as storms.

Since it is an old concept, the microgrid receives energy from distributed generators that use gas or other fossil fuels. However, the growing calls for sustainability have led to a shift toward renewable resources such as solar panels. Therefore, most of them are now using renewable energy for powering microgrids.

A microgrid has the potential to run for an infinite period if it’s fueled and managed properly. The best thing about the microgrid is that it doesn’t only act as a backup for the grid, but it also brings down energy costs. Moreover, many communities can take advantage of it to become independent from the national grid or become more environmentally friendly.

In a power outage, the microgrids will isolate themselves from the grid. So, if the grid goes down because of weather conditions, you will continue receiving an uninterrupted power supply.

You can disconnect from the grid to continue producing and using the electricity. Even if the grid goes out, the key feature of continued operation allows homes and businesses to carry out their daily tasks without any problem.

The recent wildfires in California had a significant impact on the national grid. Fortunately, the microgrids played a critical role in providing a consistent power supply. The planned power outages in California ensure that the power lines don’t spark more power.

In such cases, a microgrid can be the best solution for the power problem since it can produce its own energy using solar panels. These microgrids can also conserve st for an emergency. Any household can disconnect from the main grid and get a reliable energy source until the issue with the main grid is resolved.

What Are The Advantages of a Microgrid?

Microgrids offer a wide range of benefits to the local communities in situations where the national grid is off. And now, with solar panels, these grids help produce clean and reliable at a lower cost. Let’s go over some of the other benefits that microgrids offer.

Using Renewable Energy

Renewable energy has now become an important factor in the power generation sector. As the demand for reducing greenhouse gas emissions increases, most power generation companies and governments prioritize renewable energy. The best part is that renewable energy is available in abundant amounts.

Though the national power grids are now trying to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels or nuclear power stations, they still use them for power generation. On the other hand, most microgrids use renewable energy, with most of them using solar panels.

As the world is rapidly moving towards renewable energy, microgrids are already ahead of the curve. The ability to produce electricity through clean and renewable energy sources makes it a great incentive for people to use microgrids.

Local Distribution

Since private investors or groups can fund the microgrids, you can control them completely. Therefore, any group of properties or a small town can fund and locally control the energy production. They would have complete authority over electricity generation, energy storage, and distribution.

Also, the transport grid will be smaller, leading to more efficiency. Since further distance can dissipate the energy, short distances can cut power losses during distributions.

Scalability and Reliability

The best thing about microgrid solutions is that they are much more reliable and easily scalable. Since most microgrids use solar panels for power generation, there is no shortage in solar energy supply. So, it is a much more reliable option with less negative environmental impact.

Also, you can easily scale the energy generation capabilities depending on the electricity demand. You can increase your grid by simply adding more batteries and solar panels to increase electricity production.

Independent Power Source

Another exceptional advantage of the microgrid is that it allows you to become independent from the national grid. You can easily go off the grid with an automatic switch. It gives you energy independence, allowing you to access reliable power and environmentally friendly energy.

The increasing number of EVs (electric vehicles), new technologies and devices that need charging, and the rising population mean that the electricity demand will continue to increase.

As a result, the national grid will be under more pressure, leading to power outages. That is where microgrids can be a safe investment to ensure you get a reliable electricity supply for your home appliances.

Other Benefits

Besides the above advantages, microgrids also offer the following benefits:

  • Enhance the process and stability of the regional electric grid
  • Bring down peak loads and grid congestion
  • Reduces the carbon footprint and the fuel usage
  • Provides local management of distributed microgrids
  • Utilizes the local resources to produce electricity
  • Increases reliability and resilience

Microgrids: What Does The Future Hold For Them?

Microgrid systems are the best way to get reliable energy in a power outage or emergency. They leverage renewable energy sources to provide you with constant energy. Additionally, they have short distribution networks that ensure maximum efficiency.

Since climate change and sustainability are at the forefront for many people, they want to ensure their electricity comes from renewable sources. So, it is safe to say that microgrid technology has a bright future. They can play an important part in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy resource.

The Fed has passed a bill granting renewable energy funds, meaning an expanded tax credit for renewable energy users

Contact us to learn how you can benefit today