Microgrids: The Future of Energy

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The need to decrease our reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy has allowed for many alternative energy sources. With our continued reliance on municipal power grids to supply electricity, we must look to other means to generate our energy needs.

Enter, the microgrid: an energy system consisting of distributed energy sources that operate independently from a main power grid. A microgrid’s primary purpose is to ensure local, reliable power for urban and rural communities. Rather than generating power for a wide area from a utility grid, it instead localizes energy production by providing a closer proximity between power generation and the end user. The result? A much efficient in usage with less people utilizing it. 

Microgrids can integrate with a variety of renewable energy sources that best suit a community’s needs. This could include a microgrid that is entirely reliant on solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, or any other renewable energy source. An important aspect that this proposes for microgrid operators is that it allows for decentralization from major energy providers. Rather than relying on natural gas, coal, and fossil fuels burned by these utility companies to product energy, microgrids operators, and those that utilize it, can be free to produce all the energy they need. A microgrid could essentially be operated by anyone with several solar panels and the means to store the energy produced.

This idea alludes to an exciting future where we could potentially see thousands of microgrids pop up around the country, operated by entire communities that are producing and distributing energy in a responsible and sustainable way.

Benefits of Microgrids

During a blackout, every single entity that is connected to the central power grid goes offline. While there are typically backup power sources, sometimes entire cities are without power until the problem is fixed. This is not the case with microgrids. Instead, they are like islands, separate from a central grid. By generating energy in smaller localized areas, the entire community is protected from going without power.

It also can be a tangible solution for the 1.2 billion people that do not have access to electricity around the world. The previously proposed solution was to extend the existing central power grid, but this is not a sustainable way to provide energy. With adequate funding, education, and widespread adoption, microgrids have the potential to change the lives of over one billion people who live without steady electricity.

With a growing public agreement on the importance of more sustainable means of energy production, microgrids can be the beginning of a step towards a brighter, cleaner future.

1 Comment

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    Art Hunter

    July 13, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    As a micro grid (with storage, electric vehicle and geothermal) designer and owner/operator, you short article inspired me to capture some of my experience in one of my documents. I liked some of your descriptive terms and wrote:

    When describing a microgrid the powerful terms “efficient”, “reliable”, “flexible” and “expandable”, are used. Efficiency and reliability gain their significance due to the close proximity of the energy source to the only user and end use device. No long transmission lines, multiple transformers and other equipment that are susceptible to storm and other damage while suffering delivery energy losses along the way. A major failure results in only one household being degraded rather than many thousands or an entire city. Isolation from these distant failures is often automatic where equipment detects the fault and turns the microgrid into an energy island in a fraction of a second. Fault detection, location and maintenance can often be undertaken by the homeowner or a local technician. Flexibility and expandability gain their significance as close proximity permits access to the entire microgrid energy network from end to end in one location so monitoring and innovation (inquisitiveness) can be applied and verified without long delays and exorbitant costs. Change is frequently very easy as configuration and operating characteristics are often available through settings provided by application software, switches, gauges, thermostats, and existing equipment that is already included when delivered from the factory. Integrating with a wide variety of renewable energy or Internet of Things equipment that best suits the homeowner is often simplified due to ease of access.

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