Adrienne SorensenSeptember 17, 201811730
From the hurricane-induced outages and the rise of small-scale energy resources, people are making transformations in the way we create and consume energy. Researchers are turning to the microgrid as a key agent of this transformation.
Microgrids are small-scale power networks unburdened by a centralized power plant. Today’s high proliferation of distributed energy resources (DERs) makes microgrids more complex. These layers of complexity in an ever-changing environment need a command center; a system of advanced energy controls.
Information Technology Explained
Advancements in information technology, gives an automated energy management that keeps components and changing conditions. These systems make decisions that optimize price, reliability and the use of clean energy, based on those parameters. This digital data technologies is key to making microgrids a sound investment.
Microgrids empower the end user with control and freedom from the bureaucratic power utility. A simple microgrid, such as one that consists of a few solar arrays and diesel generator, is manageable by the operator, but more sophisticated management tools are important for today’s more advanced microgrids.
To manage these multiple elements and ensure both reliability and savings, we installed our energy management system and software, which automates coordination of distributed energy resources. The software then uses data to supervise the energy sources, continuously analyzing energy prices, demand and weather conditions to determine the right energy mix to meet the microgrid operator’s goals.
It keeps the multiple energy components working in synchronization, ensuring reliability and freeing the developer to use the solar he desired. The result is automated management that makes use of data, in a way that simply cannot be done manually. Even the most ardent fans of electricity market dynamics cannot constantly monitor prices and adjust their microgrid settings accordingly. Automation becomes even more important considering the need for reliability and to avoid incidents like battery drainage.
Without advanced controls, the developer would not be able to calculate which arrangement of electrons, when to turn off the solar and turn on batteries, or when to turn both those off and start the diesel will result in the highest value energy certainly not in continuous real time.
The resulting energy savings will aide offset the cost of the microgrid installation. With nearly 2,000 microgrids currently operating in the United States alone, the energy industry goal is to go green. Today’s technologies have created new expectations for these decentralized systems.
As they grow in number and complexity, microgrids in turn will need sophisticated digital automation and smart management to turn them into reliable alternatives to the conventional grid.
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