Alastair Munro, Founder and CEO of Ryse Energy, discussed the importance of wind in microgrids at the recent Microgrid Global Innovation Forum why adding wind into the mix of technologies is important for the efficient operation of microgrids.
The Importance Of Wind In Microgrids
Ryse Energy is a company that, according to its founder and CEO, Alastair Munro, doesn’t focus on grids but on trying to displace fossil fuels or diesel or heavy fuel applications. The company’s key competency is in wind energy, a technology that is also central to the way it designs hybrid systems, based primarily on a containerized approach. This allows Ryse to deploy solar with energy storage and supported by small wind, backed up by a small diesel generator.
The company follows two basic approaches, one of which is technology supply, in which it partners with companies already engaged with solar. The other approach is Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) where Ryse works with financing partners who can provide equity injection into projects. Of the two, EaaS is seen by Ryse as a big component of its future business model.
Alongside areas affected by energy poverty and rural communities, Ryse is looking at projects in which applications can be applied in specific situations for particular purposes, such as water pumping, telecoms, support for pipelines and various industrial operations. Mr. Munro cited a particular example of a fish farm where the company had deployed small wind in order to displace existing diesel.
Munro stated that unlike large projects involving big wind and a connection to the grid, Ryse can usually do its own wind resource assessments with the smaller projects it is working with. It has a key contract with the UK Met Office for example. Furthermore, wind resource data is easily obtainable as it is so well documented, thanks to a variety of institutions and organizations such as airports, ports and a multitude of other installations.
Although wind incurs a higher capital cost, it has very attractive payback times. It is also easy to maintain and there are a number of financing options to help with the initial cost.
So why should wind be incorporated into the mix of technologies, particularly with regard to microgrids?
Although there are many benefits to solar, including impressive price reduction, widely available technology and an efficient supply chain, solar is limited by the amount of daylight hours, which can be reduced further by cloud cover, smog etc. This often means that projects have to enlarge their capacity and energy storage support. Wind, on the other hand, is available 24/7, particularly in certain locations such as coastal and upland areas. The answer to the problem is hybridizing a project, thereby giving a mix of solar, wind and energy storage, with a small backup generator. This will tend to generate more energy than is required, but the excess can be fed back to the grid or used to charge batteries. Wind will enable a project to generate through the night when solar is not producing and will also ease the strain on the energy storage, reducing the overall battery size.
A typical example of such a system is Ryse’s Cape Verde hybrid project, consisting of three small wind turbines, representing 15 kilowatts of wind in total, 20 kilowatts of solar, energy storage, and a backup diesel generator. The entire project provides energy support for a community of 700 people. The diesel generator is usually only required to support the renewables for a maximum of 5 percent of the time, therefore making the project 95 percent renewable. Ryse operates a similar project in Ghana consisting of two 5 kilowatt wind turbines with 30 kilowatts of solar.
These projects are ideal for community power and various commercial and industrial applications and a great many more applications where replacement of diesel by renewables is required.