With every natural disaster and large-scale power outage in the news, people are thinking more seriously about how to achieve energy independence. As extreme heat, wildfires or winter storms pressure utility grids, there’s an urgency to find local solutions. A backup generator is no longer enough.
Energy customers are looking for sustainability but also stability. That’s where microgrids come in. A local power grid that can operate either on its own or when connected to a large utility grid, a microgrid is the ultimate in energy independence. It’s also a source of local (locally generated, locally distributed) and clean energy. So it ticks all the boxes!
Microgrid uses run the gamut. They are used for commercial and industrial backup power generation, as well as for peak shaving. They provide emergency power for hospitals, schools and shelters during a disaster.
Microgrid energy systems come in all sizes. They’re scalable to meet residential, commercial, industrial or community/municipal needs. Once used mainly by the military or on college campuses, microgrid systems are now more widespread. According to a Microgrid Knowledge article: How many microgrids and where? “The pace of installation has picked up and is expected to grow dramatically as distributed energy prices drop and worries heighten about electric reliability, due to severe storms, cyberattacks and other threats.”
Microgrid Solar is the next big thing in local, clean, renewable energy. Read on to learn about microgrid solar cost, benefits, design, component parts and considerations.
What is a Microgrid?
Microgrid is a term seen more and more in energy news but it’s often misunderstood. What is a Microgrid, exactly? It’s a local, small-scale power grid that can operate either on its own or when connected to a large utility grid. That “either/or” capability is the key distinction.
Microgrids can serve a cluster of houses or a section of a community. On an industrial scale, they can power a hospital or data center or a large military installation.
If your home is part of a microgrid system, your power will still stay on even if the utility grid goes down. In the event of a blackout or extended outage, you can seamlessly switch over to the microgrid’s locally generated power.
It’s all part of the microgrid’s design. Programmed to sense and monitor the power flowing through the regional utility grid, a microgrid is able to disconnect from it in an instant during an outage.
On the other hand, when everything’s smooth sailing, a microgrid can generate electricity from its solar panels and then export it to the grid. Providing both stability and sustainability, it’s no wonder that Microgrid Solar systems are gaining in popularity.
How do microgrid systems differ from picogrids and nanogrids?
A nanogrid is smaller than a microgrid. It is often just one house or building. Nanogrids and microgrids are both usually connected to the central utility grid.
A picogrid is even smaller than a nanogrid. Often used in developing countries, it can be a handful of people or houses all sharing a solar panel. Microgrid Knowledge describes a picogrid as “a setup that provides enough power to keep the lights on and charge cell phones.” In the article Meet the Microgrid, Vox goes even smaller in its definition: “It can be even one person (a ‘picogrid’) with a backpack solar panel, an iPhone, and some headphones.”
Microgrid Design and Component Parts
A microgrid’s design depends on the power sources it incorporates, plus extra features like energy storage. While there are various models of microgrids, the following make up the main parts: solar, wind or other renewable power sources; energy storage systems (usually batteries); and sometimes backup generators.
Many microgrid models incorporate backup generators. While natural gas generators are more eco-friendly, they are vulnerable to infrastructure and supply failures. Diesel generators are the most dependable solution but also the dirtiest.
How do backup generators differ from microgrids? A backup generator is not designed to run continuously, and (unlike a microgrid) it cannot put power back into the grid. Generators should only be used in emergencies, whereas microgrids operate 24/7.
Solar energy systems are a major component in microgrid design. Solar is clean and renewable, and as part of a solar micro-grid it’s a reliable power source around the clock.
Do the terms solar energy and solar microgrid mean the same thing? No. Both generate energy using solar power, but a solar microgrid (a.k.a. solar energy grid) is able to disconnect from the main utility grid. That’s what sets them apart!
Microgrid Solar is a type of local, independent energy network that’s taking off in many parts of the country. Read more about the benefits of solar microgrids below.
Energy Storage Batteries
More advanced microgrid models incorporate longer lasting batteries into their design as well. Microgrid energy storage provides power when the grid goes down.
Solar plus storage solutions incorporate energy storage batteries for both solar storage and backup power. They also save costs on electricity during peak hours.
Microgrid Solar and other microgrid power systems are able to work independently or alongside the power grid. Microgrids are able to “island” or remove themselves from the main grid when necessary.
To balance electricity supply (load) and demand, the microgrid’s control system monitors and prioritizes loads around the clock. Advanced solar microgrid systems handle load management to maximize the overall performance.
Coupling microgrids together is a common load management solution. Neighboring microgrids can often benefit by maximizing shared resources.
How Does a Solar Microgrid Work?
A solar microgrid is not dependent on the main utility grid — but can connect to it when it needs to.
Microgrid Solar systems can capture, store and distribute electricity to a cluster or homes or to an entire community. Solar micro-grid design and installation requires a professional. Solar panels and batteries are installed in a central “hub,” the technology is outfitted, and then an electrician connects the wiring from the central power to the buildings sharing the microgrid.
The solar microgrid connects to the main grid at a point of common coupling (PCC). It maintains the same level of voltage as the main grid unless it detects a problem or an outage — in which case it can disconnect with a click of a switch (either automatic or manual).
What are the Benefits of Solar Microgrids?
Some homeowners only realize the benefits of solar microgrids when the main power grid goes down. New owners of solar PV panels might assume they’re immune to power outages. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Most of the solar panels in the US operate through a grid connection. And when the electrical grid goes down, those solar panels stop generating power.
Microgrid Solar delivers the best of both worlds: renewable energy plus energy resilience.
To upgrade your solar PV system and reap the benefits of a solar microgrid, consider a comprehensive solar plus storage system. It’s the most effective way to optimize your solar PVs, gain energy security and cut your carbon footprint at the same time.
Lumin’s advanced solar energy management system provides responsive, autonomous control and energy security, 24/7.
Do I Need My Own Microgrid?
For people living in remote areas, access to a microgrid can be vital. For anyone concerned about grid stability and resiliency during these unpredictable times, microgrid energy is certainly worth considering.
What is the Difference Between Grid-Tied and Off-Grid Solar System?
A grid-tied solar system is connected to your utility power grid, whereas an off-grid solar system is not. Being off-grid means you’re disconnected from your utility grid’s power system as well as from the utility company itself.
Being grid-tied (or on-grid) has its benefits: Grid-tied solar is less expensive upfront, as you don’t need to buy a battery backup system for energy storage. Also, being on-grid means you’re able to sell electricity back to the utility company.
Since a grid-tied solar system is connected to the electrical grid, it can only produce energy when the grid is running. So, during a power outage you’re out of luck.
How Lumin’s Smart Panel Revolutionizes the Solar Microgrid
Lumin takes Microgrid Solar to the next level. By optimizing your solar microgrid with Lumin’s Smart Panel, you’ll increase its efficiency, reliability and resilience. You’ll gain energy security and stability with your own independent power system. Isn’t that what energy independence is all about?
Lumin’s smart electrical panel reinforces the microgrid’s functionality as a safe and reliable energy supply and maximizes its solar energy storage capabilities. Whole-home battery backup provides the security of knowing you’ll be covered in a power outage or whatever comes your way.
Looking for the best solar microgrid for your customers or yourself? Check out Lumin’s solar energy management solutions at…
When it comes to advanced technology and microgrid solar expertise, Lumin has you covered.