Insights from BCC Research

Microgrids a Cleaner Response to Renewable Energy Demands

Posted by Clayton Luz on Dec 27, 2016 10:00:00 AM

As utility companies face mounting pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity eco-system, microgrids may offer a solution for delivering distributed renewable energy at an affordable cost. A pilot case recently launched in Brooklyn, New York, aims to demonstrate just that.

 
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, according to the U.S. Department of Energy Microgrid Exchange Group.  A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island-mode.
 
The grid connects homes, businesses and other buildings to central power sources, which allow us to use appliances, heating/cooling systems and electronics. But this interconnectedness means that when part of the grid needs to be repaired, everyone's affected.
 
But a microgrid can help. A microgrid generally operates while connected to the grid, but importantly, it can break off and operate on its own using local energy generation in times of crisis like storms or power outages, or for other reasons.
 
A microgrid can be powered by distributed generators, batteries, and/or renewable resources like solar panels. Depending on how it’s fueled and how its requirements are managed, a microgrid might run indefinitely.
 
A microgrid not only provides backup for the grid in case of emergencies, but can also be used to cut costs, or connect to a local resource that is too small or unreliable for traditional grid use. A microgrid allows communities to be more energy independent and, in some cases, more environmentally friendly.
 
Specialized microgrids operate on the principle of self-generation and consumption and act as a replacement for net metering based grid-tied rooftop solar programs, Sarah Rubenoff observes on Microgrid Knowledge. These grids offer an economical, technically viable, and safe and reliable power source.
 
A MICROGRID GROWS IN BROOKLYN
 
In New York, Brooklyn Microgrid (BMG) endeavors to demonstrate show how various energy resources, including solar energy, batteries, and other technology, can be brought together within one community microgrid.
 
BMG is a "distributed energy development group" covering the Park Slope and Gowanus communities of Brooklyn, with the aim of creating a connected network for local energy, and combining renewable energy and the peer-to-peer economy, writes Derek Markham on Treehugger.com.
 
The Brooklyn Microgrid uses the TransActive Grid, a peer-to-peer platform composed of both software and hardware, to enable its members to buy and sell energy from each other, using a combination of smart contracts and the blockchain.
 
Markham writes, "Instead of being locked in to buying (and/or selling) electricity through a large utility company, TransActive Grid (TAG) will allow for greater choice for consumers, and can help individuals become local energy providers by selling their excess rooftop solar electricity production to other local residents or businesses."
 
The first iteration of the Brooklyn Microgrid essentially connects houses with solar panels with other nearby houses that want to buy renewable energy, which makes this distributed energy project a truly hyperlocal venture.
 
LO3 Energy currently owns BMG. Once BMG is fully developed, LO3 will sell or gift shares of BMG to local organizations and individuals living in the Brooklyn community, according to BMG.
 
The goal is for the microgrid system to be community-owned and managed.
 
The Brooklyn Microgrid is a project of TransActive Grid, a joint venture between LO3 Energy and Consensus Systems.
 
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Topics: Energy and Resources