MICROGRIDS – HYBRID RENEWABLE ENERGY SYSTEMS
Hybrid Renewable Energy – Clean, Consistent, environmentally friendly power for our planet!
Hybrid renewable energy systems (HRES), or more commonly referred to as Microgrids, are becoming popular as stand-alone power systems for providing electricity to main grid supplies, especially in remote areas. This is due to advances in renewable energy technologies and subsequent rise in prices of fossil fuel generation. A Microgrid, usually consists of two or more renewable energy sources used together to provide increased system efficiency as well as greater balance in energy supply.
A Microgrid is defined as a small-scale power grid that can operate independently or collaboratively with other power grids. It can be a small-scale, localised power-station that has its own generation and storage resources.
Q: Why are Microgrids/HRES so important?
A: If we want a liveable climate for future generations, we need to stop and reverse the rise in global temperatures. To achieve this, we need to stop burning fossil fuels for energy and generate carbon-free electricity and get as many of our energy uses as possible (including transportation and industry) hooked up to the electricity grid.
As renewable energy technologies become more advanced, there is a growing interest in the benefits of combining two or more renewable energy sources, which has become known as hybrid energy.
Pairing geothermal and solar, wind and waste to energy systems, or another combination of renewable energy systems with batteries, will lead to a more efficient and balanced output for electricity networks. Microgrids can also be tailored to the environment, adapting to variations in weather and utilising peak seasons for wind and solar. These renewable energy generators can be integrated alongside existing power generation systems, enabling companies and communities to make full use of these assets, ensuring a stable supply.
Hybrid energy has significant advantages for developing countries and remote locations, many of which have a fast-growing need for electricity or a requirement to replace old, inefficient and fossil fuel systems. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Africa’s GDP could increase roughly three-fold by 2030. Yet, current energy trends indicate that in 2030 there will still be 655 million people in Africa without access to power (42% of the population). A much larger and more effective energy sector will be needed to sustain the continent’s projected economic growth. With poor grid connectivity in many distant and rural areas, decentralised energy has a major role to play, and hybrid solutions offer the advantages of flexibility, reliability and economies of scale.
Hybrid technology will come to rely more heavily on advanced energy storage technologies as well as sophisticated control and management systems that will increase energy conversion efficiency, allow operators to utilise all their assets fully and ensure both stability of supply and greater profitability.
Any combination of wind, photovoltaic solar, battery storage and other renewable technology, will ultimately deliver a lower cost per kWh and shorter payback time than conventional fossil fuel generation, while at the same time ensure consistent grid stability and power quality. In addition, electricity cost savings could typically range from 25%-30% (without storage) to more than 60% in very remote locations with high diesel prices.
Opium Power is working on the design, build and operation of several Microgrid projects ranging from 150MW – 250MW outside the UK. In each case the Microgrid system is being introduced to replace existing and costly diesel systems, which will save thousands of litres of fuel per year.
Microgrid energy solutions built and operated by Opium Power are clean, cost-effective modular energy systems that utilise Lithium-Ion battery energy storage systems (BESS). On or off-grid, Microgrid systems provide low carbon answers to the energy challenges of today and this is part of what Opium Power is doing to help the world become cleaner and more environmentally friendly.
Microgrids can be rapidly deployed even in remote locations to provide scalable power generation and storage to meet any power demand. Applications range from remote base stations to utility grids. Generation options include wind, solar and other technology that will eventually completely replace diesel or gas fuel, with reliable, continuous output.
The Microgrid is constantly evolving and major developments are continuously being made in state-of-the-art modular energy technology and storage.
Opium Power expects Microgrids will lead the way in creating an energy future that is ever more efficient, balanced, cost-effective and environmentally sound.
The future of energy is renewable and Microgrids make it viable….
Further Reading …..
Most of us have a good understanding of how solar, wind and biomass power generating systems work. However, all these generating systems have drawbacks of some kind. Solar panels are expensive to set up, and peak output is not obtained over night or on cloudy days. Similarly, wind turbines can’t operate safely in high wind speeds, and low wind speeds produce little power. Biomass plants slow down at low temperatures.
The renewable energy sources with the most potential, and with the greatest viability, are wind and solar. However, come and go on nature’s schedule, not ours! They ramp up and down with the weather, so integrating them into the grid while maintaining and improving reliability means finding clever ways to balance out their swings.
For a greener, more reliable, more resilient electricity grid. It’s a triple challenge!
Microgrid Solves This
If two or more renewable technologies are combined into one hybrid power generating system, depending on the control systems and combination of generation used, the drawbacks can be reduced or avoided completely. The drawback of one system can be overcome by the other.
It is generally understood that on windy winter days in some regions of the world solar power is limited and vice versa. Whereas wind generation may provide the balance required. In the summer and rainy season, the biomass plant can operate effectively so the power generation can be maintained.
Adding suitable grid scale BESS to these solutions will support the function of a 24hr managed supply. The BESS can take surplus energy and charge when energy is not required and then top up the supply at times when renewable production is lower.
A further method of storing renewable energy is the production of hydrogen through the electrolysis of water. Hydrogen is subsequently used to generate electricity during periods when demand cannot be matched by other renewable methods alone. The energy in the stored hydrogen can be converted into electrical power through fuel cell technology or a combustion engine linked to a turbine.
However, two main problems with hydrogen are:
- The cost of production is still too high to produce hydrogen through this method, making it unviable for storing renewable energy.
- As it is the smallest atom on the planet, containing it is difficult.
Remote Locations – the solution
Currently there are still about 1.2 billion people in the word without grid electricity. The majority of them living in remote islands, mountainous areas and isolated villages. Grid extensions to such remote communities is both uneconomical and technically difficult owing to dispersed population or rugged terrain. Fortunately, many of these remote areas are usually rich in renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind, biomass, and hydro energy. Exploring the locally available renewable energy resources is the best possible option to meeting the energy requirements of these remote areas.
Depending on the site conditions, a mix of technologies would be selected to create a hybrid system for remote area power supply. Renewable energy resources are highly site-specific and intermittent in nature and therefore, as demand increases various elements of the hybrid system would engage to meet the demand.
In recent years, stand-alone renewable energy power generation systems have been increasingly the research focus in this field, and some attempts have been made to develop the hybrid energy technologies for remote area power supply. Therefore, there is a need to understand the status and future development requirements with respect to renewable energy power generation technologies, energy storage technologies, system configuration, optimisation techniques and operation & management. Today, hybrid technology works well and going forward expected developments, evolving technology and new management systems will ensure hybrid renewable systems will be the ‘go to’ systems in the future for remote or standalone energy supply solutions.
Go Microgrid and go Clean! Contact our team to learn more.