by Briton Lee
One of the issues with the integration of alternative energy, such as solar and wind power, into the electricity grid is their volatile load swings. Automation and microgrids seek to address this issue of fluctuating energy and make renewables more amenable to integration. Solar and wind power are unpredictable, and fluctuations occur simply when a cloud passes over a solar grid. Another problem is that solar energy is generally produced during the day and not during the night, whereas human electricity use peaks in the evening. Generally, humans have to manually monitor and balance energy production and consumption in order to manage the electrical loads. The entire grid is tightly monitored, and the formulas used to keep the grid in check are thrown off when renewables are included. Renewables are unpredictable because it’s unclear when the energy will come in, since energy is not stored but rather threaded directly into the grid.
Microgrids are smaller distributed grids, and act as a reserve that manages the fluctuation of alternative energy sources. They use energy sources and storage that can handle smaller fluctuations on their own. The microgrids are implemented on both the supply and demand side; they are able to communicate with each other to determine how much energy is needed and compares it to how much energy is produced. In a microgrid controller system, different energy loads are connected to a control node, which consists of a communication node, power measuring device, and a switch that can isolate the loads leading to a more controlled and automated process of energy management.
These microgrids present huge savings in management costs and makes the adoption of renewables more palatable. Microgrids aren’t exactly solving fluctuation issues, but they make it so that grid engineers do not have to concern themselves with smaller issues, and can instead focus on fluctuations that exceed 10 MW. Automation in the renewable industry gives alternative energy a stronger footing to tackle the hegemony of fossil fuels.
Spiegel, Rob. 2015. “Automation Gives Alternative Energy a Boost”. (http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=276789).
Zaidi, A., et. al. 2008. Microgrid automation – a self-configuring approach. Multitopic Conference, 2008. INMIC 2008. IEEE International.
TAGS: renewable energy, alternative energy, solar, wind, microgrids