How does a Micro Grid work?
As briefly described in our other post, a microgrid is a localised energy grid, which is generally linked to the main grid but can disconnect automatically and function as its own independent grid when necessary.
Traditionally (and as still occurs for the vast majority of us), homes, businesses, etc. are all connected to the National Grid transmission lines, which transport our electricity from where it has been generated. Think of it as a very large interconnected web. 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 (e.g. repairs further up the line).
A microgrid can be powered by distributed generators, batteries, and/or renewable resources like solar panels and wind turbines. Depending on how it’s fuelled and how its requirements are managed, a microgrid could run indefinitely.
A microgrid connects to the grid at a point of common coupling that maintains voltage at the same level as the main grid unless there is some sort of problem on the grid or other reason to disconnect. A switch can separate the microgrid from the main grid automatically or manually, and it then functions as an island.
Microgrids not only allow you to optimise the power source but also the power use. For example, a microgrid could deal with an energy shortage not by cutting off all power, but selectively disconnecting supplies to certain uses. For instance, the system might prioritise vital communications and healthcare-related energy expenditures, while cutting power to superfluous uses or to appliances such as fridges / freezers, which can get by with the odd short term power outage.
Another huge advantage to local power production is the optimisation of heat energy. Large power plants tend to create a great deal of unused heat. In fact, between 60 and 80 percent of a typical power plant’s energy consumption never becomes electricity. On a local level, however, that energy could be used to heat water for regional use.
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