Microgrids & Resilient Energy

Market Overview: Most solar-energy systems are designed to connect to the utility grid, and cannot operate alone without the grid. When the grid fails, that solar-PV system fails. Microgrids are different, in that they are engineered to operate autonomously without the grid, effectively creating their own small grid, an “island” or “microgrid.” Microgrids include energy storage and sometimes multiple generation assets; providing energy to multiple buildings on a university campus, commercial complex, or private island. Microgrids often integrate traditional fossil-fuel generators or other sources, and these typically are called “hybrid microgrids.”

There are a variety of reasons to build a microgrid or hybrid project. The primary reasons are survivability/resiliency, reliability, and the ability to manage energy expense spending.

Hurricanes Sandy, Irma, and Maria are examples of driving large regions to greater resiliency and autonomy in their energy supply. A building or multiple buildings or a community with a stand-alone microgrid designed to be highly survivable could be more resilient than a conventional utility grid distribution system.

But we believe the more practical and usual reason will evolve to allow electricity users to control when and how much electricity they take from the utility grid. Time-of-Use pricing is leading to more expensive electricity during the hours when it is most in demand. A microgrid can manage those costs by reducing or effectively shifting utility usage to hours when the cost is lower. There also is a growing market for fully islanded systems that have no utility service. We have engineered and built a number of these systems, both inside and outside the country. These typically are isolated islands, or locations that are too far from a utility service provider to have distribution systems. We are expert in the planning, engineering, and construction of microgrids, including control systems, medium-voltage site distribution, redundancy, and integrating energy efficiency to reduce capital investment.

Lastly, we have the capability to offer third-party financing for microgrids, depending on the metrics of the specific project. It will almost always be more economical for a project owner to self-finance their project, and we can help chart that course forward to closing.

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