Is a Microgrid Right for You? A Modern Approach to Energy Challenges

July 17, 2019
Microgrids are becoming more and more prevalent for good reason. But a microgrid’s unique nature can trip up even the most advanced engineers and utility staff. A new guide helps you decide if a microgrid is the best solution for your business.

Microgrids are becoming more and more prevalent for good reason. Microgrid options act as modern approaches to solving multiple energy challenges. But choosing a microgrid can be difficult, and they are expensive; complex systems, and may require more time to engineer and install than other solutions.

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That’s why a new handbook from S&C Electric is designed to help determine whether a microgrid is the best solution for you and to prepare your team if you decide to pursue building one.

What problems are you trying to solve? 

Bottom line: Outages cost you and your customers money. In this digital age, people expect to be connected at all times, and even short outages are increasingly unacceptable. 

Weather is also an unpredictable challenge, and natural disasters can cause massive damage. And technologies exist that harden the grid and improve resiliency. 

Further environmental concerns include geographical challenges,  such as mountains or forests, that can make it difficult or expensive to deliver reliable power.

According to S&C Electric, new technologies and emerging social concerns are causing significant energy industry disruption. 

These include grid defections, where some customers, especially in the commercial/industrial sector, have opted to generate their own power to lower costs and control reliability, using the electric grid instead as backup power. 

Further, there is also increasing pressure to reduce harmful gases and use renewables in lieu of fossil-based generation. 

Part of this change is spurred by the fact that coal and nuclear plants are rapidly being replaced with renewable energy and natural gas generation.

“Adjusting to new fuel mixes means strategies must change,” S&C pointed out. The existing infrastructure isn’t designed for rapid change, and upgrades require significant capital, according to S&C.

Customer-usage patterns are changing as well. The grid was originally designed when customers were strictly power users. It’s not well structured to handle new ways customers participate in the electricity market, such as through use of electric vehicles, time-of-day pricing, and distributed generation. 

“A microgrid is a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both a grid-connected or island mode.” — Microgrids at Berkeley Lab (U.S. Department of Energy) 

The decentralization of energy, and installation of generation closer to energy loads, is also spurring microgrid growth and popularity. S&C explains it like this: Power generation used to be centralized and flow toward the edge of the grid, but now power flows bi-directionally from generation sources located throughout the grid.

Many parts of the grid are already straining at capacity and require upgrades or replacements. And utilities are looking for ways to prolong the life of these assets and defer their replacement costs. Thus, many are turning to microgrids to promote resiliency, sustainability and stability, as well as to address capacity challenges.

Microgrids are scalable, field-proven solutions that can be sized to your needs and incorporate renewable generation sources. They can also react immediately and automatically when there a power issue arises. And they can provide costs savings.

The energy industry is taking note. According to a report by Wood Mackenzie, microgrids will see 350% growth from 2015 to 2020, growing the North American market to $3.5 billion by 2020.

The new report from S&C Electric explores whether a microgrid is right for you and highlights the following topics:

  • What Problems are You Trying to Solve?
  • Utility Analysis: Trends and Common Challenges
  • Pros and Cons of Possible Solutions
  • What is a Microgrid?
  • The Growing Microgrid Market
  • Microgrids and You
  • What are the Benefits and Use Cases of Microgrids?
  • Are Microgrids Worth the Investment?
  • What’s Your Microgrid’s Value Stack?
  • Who Do We Need to Convince to Build a Microgrid?

This is the first article in a three-part series that Microgrid Knowledge will publish from the guide. The other two articles will cover: 

  • Building a Microgrid: Understanding the Ideal Microgrid Design
  • The Short- and Long-Term Care of Your Microgrid

Download the new white paper from S&C Electric, “Is a Microgrid Right for You?”,  that explores whether choosing a microgrid is the right decision for your enterprise. 

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