Why Consider a Microgrid?

In today’s world we are constantly hearing about utility grid failures due to improper maintenance, lagging upgrades, acts of terrorism, and extreme weather complications.  Our utility grids often go down leaving us stranded from many comforts of modern life, and perhaps it is good for us to be reminded of how life could be without a ready supply of electricity.  

However, there are many situations where outages create dire circumstances:  

  • medical facilities where lives depend on equipment and lighting
  • plants and storage facilities that require constant refrigeration to prevent spoilage of products
  • livestock sites where ventilation is vital

These are just a few examples.  Generators are often used to prevent catastrophic situations, but for extended outages they are inefficient.

 A modern day microgrid is a mini-version of the utility grid, but usually smarter and more efficient.  It is an independent power network that uses local, distributed energy resources to provide grid backup or off-grid power to meet local electricity needs.  

The concept of a microgrid dates back to 1882 when Thomas Edison opened and operated his Pearl Street Station in Manhattan.  This microgrid used high-speed steam engines to initially provide power to a community of 82 customers with a total of 400 lamps.  Today’s microgrids are much more efficient and can serve a wider set of needs using technologies such as solar, battery storage and generators.  The systems can be tied to the utility grid or operate as a stand-alone system.

Microgrids can work in conjunction with the utility grid or be independent of the grid.  Working in conjunction with the grid, a microgrid can provide several benefits:

  • Time of Use Shifting:  TOU rates are used during high utility demand times.  The rate during these hours is increased and can quickly drive bills up.  Batteries in a microgrid system can be programmed to deliver power to a property in place of grid power, and solar can be working to recharge the batteries.
  • Peak Demand Shaving:  Demand charges are often seen on the bills of higher usage customers.  These are often excessive charges based off the highest usage level each month.  Again, batteries can be used to moderate usage levels.
  • Seamless Power Outage Backup:  The microgrid can step in to provide needed power to a site.  Oftentimes, the switch is undetectable.

GAI Energy is a microgrid dealer and distributor with ELM Microgrid.  The ELM systems can power anything from a residential site to industrial settings.  If you would like to know more about the benefits of adding a microgrid to your property, we would be happy to provide more information.

VP & Director of Sales at Green Alternatives, Inc.

Cindy started as a consultant with Green Alternatives in 2009 and has moved into her current position within the last few years. She loves meeting with potential clients, answering their questions, and ultimately designing a PV solar system that meets their needs and goals.