Solar Microgrids – Innovation in Energy Production

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As sustainability is incorporated into more and more aspects of daily life, businesses aren’t being left out of the charge. The gains in clean, renewable energy are being used to reduce carbon emissions in industries such as manufacturing, warehousing, and services.

The key to this innovation in energy is microgrids. These systems combine renewable and traditional energy generation within a small geographic footprint such as a college campus, industrial park, or residential zone. The power generated is used by these entities to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

What is a Solar Microgrid?

A solar microgrid generates power entirely from solar energy. It contains photovoltaic panels, load monitoring systems, mounting and positioning hardware, and battery banks to store energy for use during dark or cloudy periods.

Solar microgrids can be connected to the larger grid for contingency or peak power usage to prevent outages. They can also serve as the seed charge for larger grids whose generators require a battery-powered jump to re-engage. And, like other microgrids, they can act as an “island” for critical operations such as first responders, hospitals, or governments who need the power to run in case of emergency.

Benefits of a Solar Microgrid

There are several benefits to operating a solar microgrid. These include:

  • Stability and Resilience – Microgrids can island themselves from the primary grid, which helps stabilize national or regional grids. It also means that during natural disasters and other disruptive events, communities and businesses served by solar microgrids can avoid many outages affecting larger grid systems.
  • Access for Underserved Communities – Solar microgrids are ideal for communities and businesses where the power supply is spotty or nonexistent. It allows these entities to operate without expensive and polluting diesel generators.
  • Scalability – Solar microgrids are highly scalable. They can operate with a minimal footprint for a single business or for college campuses or hospitals. They can also be expanded to fit communities or small business parks. Their “island benefit” can still tap into the primary grid should the need arise.
  • Lower Cost – Because the system is local and usage is close to the point of generation, there is less efficiency loss than transmission over long-distance lines with a traditional grid. The system can also lower costs through the use of smart technology such as IoT. This technology and the readily available energy source from the sun make the cost lower overall.

Solar Microgrid Design Considerations

Solar microgrids are part of a Distributed Energy Resources (DER) movement.

They are highly flexible and can be designed to operate in almost any location. They can be designed to work in small, medium, and large-scale projects, expanding their reach for business applications and industry.

The first issue business owners should address is the conceptual design of the project. Is the design intended for use by one company or many? What are the overall power needs, plans for excess capacity, and initial investment? Will the microgrid be connected to the larger grid?

Once the concept is defined, a more detailed design will determine the system needs, balance and load data, and required equipment. The design stage is also where system components are priced such that the buyer can determine its CAPEX budget for the project and determine the project’s ROI.

The final step is determining design specifications. This step includes engineering estimates, drawings, and construction notes that can be used to build the system. This also includes specific vendor models and equipment that will be used in the system.

How Entrepreneurs and Business Owners Benefit from Solar Microgrids

Entrepreneurs have a lot to balance to get their enterprise off the ground. But advances in technology mean that business owners no longer have to choose between sustainable and affordable energy. With solar microgrids, they can leverage the power of DER systems as part of the growth of their business.

The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian college understands that this choice is one that many entrepreneurs face. Our programs can help advise, mentor, and train leaders for the challenges ahead. This training can also include assistance in determining the power choice that best suits your business.

Take a look at our programs to see how we can help you gain skills and determine how technologies such as solar microgrids can be included in your startup or existing enterprise. Contact us today to see how.

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