Whether you’re a small-scale manufacturer with a need for on-site energy production or a power supplier in need of a supplemental peak energy turbine, there’s a good chance you’ve scanned the lineup of DES technologies and been left wondering how to choose from what’s available and which microgrid tech systems are here to stay. There’s no universal solution for microgrid implementation, and while that likely means there’s some sort of energy solution for your requirements, it also means you’ll need to know your options to find the right one. Despite all the diversity, there are a few solutions that have proven a reliable means of obtaining independence from the grid.
With efficiencies steadily rising as fabrication methods improve, solar power (or photovoltaic) is not only the most prevalent microgrid energy source, but its potential for expansion is also the greatest. Many microgrid end users avail themselves of solar because of its low maintenance, either installing arrays of the panels on a rooftop or a nearby terrain with adequate sun exposure, and make returns on their investment by selling unused electricity back to the grid. The primary drawback of solar lies in its weather dependency, but much less sunlight than is often expected is needed for adequate electrical output, so inconsistency is a minimal risk.
Outside of fuel-derived energy output, most microgrid energy sources will require some form of battery storage to maintain continuous production. Thankfully, energy storage devices have never been more efficient or sought after, making for a descent along the cost curve as new applications are found for them. The most common form of battery energy storage system (BESS) today consists of lithium ion or Ni-Cad batteries to conserve electricity for later use, but thermal energy storage such as molten salts and phase-changing materials provide an alternative solution to converting heat into electricity on demand.
Combined Heat And Power (CHP) Systems
Though more a form of reuse than generation or storage, combined heat and power cycles make the most of the energy available within a microgrid, and are an integral part of many DES solutions. Optimizing efficiency by recycling wasted heat into additional electricity or usable heat, CHP systems are often simple in their design, yet surprisingly effective in helping microgrid users produce the power they need to remain autonomous.
Fuel cells play a niche role in the energy landscape, but their particular suitability in microgrid applications makes them worth mentioning. Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) have proven to be especially useful to microgrid systems, possessing a simple, rapid startup, compatibility with multiple fuel sources, and a lower carbon footprint than combustion-based fossil fuel alternatives. SOFCs are also modular in their configuration, enabling users to scale them up easily to meet the necessary power demands.
Customizing Your Microgrid
The above are just a few technologies that have shown themselves to be notably compatible with microgrid implementation, and there are many more available. Localized wind turbines, passive geothermal heating, and natural gas turbines are a few other resources to consider, and there’s no one solution to fit every end user’s needs. Part of the beauty and challenge of microgrid tech is designing the exact configuration of generation source, energy storage, and efficiency improvement that will suit each application. Though frustrating for those hoping for a plug-and-play solution for their system, the benefit of such technological diversity is that no matter what the user’s requirements may be, there is likely a microgrid technology to satisfy it.
Contact VECKTA today to discuss your energy needs, and which microgrid tech systems are here to stay.