After Luxury Resorts, Singapore’s Canopy Power See Diverse Industries Embracing Microgrids

on November 20, 2019

Canopy Power, a start-up headquartered in Singapore which has recently completed microgrid projects including solar and battery energy storage, for luxury resorts in South East Asia, says it wants to take the tech and its concepts into a number of other sectors.

The company first got in touch with in September, on the completion of a “customised independent renewable energy microgrid” for Telunas Private Island, an idyllic island paradise resort located in the Riau Archipelago of Indonesia.

That project included 110kW peak of solar PV from REC Solar, solar inverters from SMA, and an AlphaESS 144kWh lithium-ion energy storage system (ESS). Canopy claims the “renewable impact” of the island now stands at 60% penetration. That project still uses diesel gensets as backup power and as a part of the integrated microgrid, but is expected to reduce diesel consumption by about 45,000 litres per year.

Then, in October, the company touted the successful completion of another solar-diesel-storage microgrid, this time powering two further luxury islands resorts, Nikoi and Cempedak, again both situated on the Indonesian Riau Archipelago. These two resorts will now run on 50% renewable energy as a consequence.

In that instance, Nikoi already had some solar PV installed, while Cempedak was until recently 100% diesel-run. The islands are more than 10km from the nearest available grid connection. New solar panels were fitted (again from REC Solar, 52.5kW peak), inverters were again supplied by SMA, and the system uses a 77kWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system (BESS) supplied by Tesvolt.

From logistical challenges to channels of opportunity
Getting the projects done was rewarding, but not without challenges, Canopy Power founder Sujay Malve told this week.

“Logistics to these remote sites is always a challenge. Customs procedures in Indonesia are more complex than several countries in the region,” Sujay Malve said.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsAfter Luxury Resorts, Singapore’s Canopy Power See Diverse Industries Embracing Microgrids

Don’t Minimize The Resilience Role Of Microgrids. They’re Key To Mitigating Wildfire And PSPS Risk

on November 19, 2019

In a recent Utility Dive opinion piece, Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and preparedness at the Edison Electric Institute, minimizes the role of microgrids in providing our communities energy resilience. He defends the actions of California’s utilities in shutting off power for millions of customers to mitigate the risk of devastating wildfires, which are often caused by the utilities’ infrastructure.

But many Californians — including Governor Gavin Newsom, who called the situation “unacceptable” — are questioning whether broad grid area shutoffs are the best way to deal with increasing wildfire risks.

The role of Community Microgrids
No silver bullet exists, and most analysts agree that a multi-pronged solution is needed. However, microgrids can and must be a key component of this solution — in particular, Community Microgrids, a new approach for designing and operating the electric grid. Community Microgrids are stacked with local renewables and staged for resilience, providing communities economic, environmental and resilience benefits.

Like traditional microgrids, Community Microgrids can island from the larger grid and operate independently. Unlike traditional microgrids, which serve a single customer, Community Microgrids serve an entire community by ensuring indefinite renewables-driven backup power for critical community facilities such as fire stations, water and communications infrastructure, hospitals and emergency shelters.

Community Microgrids can keep critical loads online indefinitely during power outages of any length. Depending on the sizing of the battery storage and the amount of sunshine, they can keep even more of the electric load online for certain periods. The levels of Community Microgrid resilience in the chart below are achieved via a net zero level of solar to a community in California with energy storage capacity equating to two hours of the nameplate solar capacity (i.e., 2 kWh of energy storage for every 1 kW of solar). Importantly, at least 10% of the load is maintained indefinitely, without interruption, while the entire load can be maintained at least 25% of the time:

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsDon’t Minimize The Resilience Role Of Microgrids. They’re Key To Mitigating Wildfire And PSPS Risk

Will PG&E’s Blackouts Catalyze California’s Microgrid Market?

on November 18, 2019

Bankrupt California utility Pacific Gas & Electric has come under fire on many fronts for the scope and execution of its self-imposed blackouts last month. The blackouts will continue as the company pursues a decade-long grid-hardening project.

Electric utilities bear the solemn mission of keeping the lights on, but PG&E’s intentional shutoffs leave customers to fend for themselves. That divergence from standard operating procedure poses a question for the embattled utility: How will it take care of its millions of customers who lose access to power when the risk of starting a wildfire gets too high?

The October fires and shutoffs inspired a flurry of commentary on how microgrids and distributed energy could save the day by localizing power production and allowing communities to operate independently of the fire-threatened grid. Though sensible in theory, microgrids must navigate a thicket of regulatory and logistical barriers before they can serve as an effective tool during California blackouts.

Greentech Media dug into what action, if any, PG&E has taken to build local grid resilience that softens the blow of its power shutoff strategy. Not much has happened yet, but the utility is doing more than the casual observer might realize.

PG&E does not operate any community-scale microgrids, though it is working on one in Humboldt County. But it recently built two “resilience zones” that provide temporary backup power in fire-prone Napa County towns, and it plans to scale this concept to 40 other communities.

Microgrids remain stuck between possibility and execution. The technologies that power them are mature and already at work in numerous privately located projects, but few utilities have actually built community-based grid controls. Other utilities have taken that initiative, however, and their early efforts could serve as models for PG&E as it grapples with the new era of regular shutoffs.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsWill PG&E’s Blackouts Catalyze California’s Microgrid Market?

Microgrids Take Off Among Airport Operators

on November 15, 2019

On December 17, 2017, a fire at an underground electrical facility damaged two substations that serve Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport — then and now the world’s busiest airport. The resulting 11-hour-long power outage led to the cancellation of nearly 1,200 flights.

The Atlanta outage, and another that disrupted power for several hours at Los Angeles International Airport in June of this year, is motivating airport operators across the United States to take steps to ensure an uninterruptible supply of power.

In this quest for more reliable power, an increasing number of airports are turning to microgrids — self-contained grids capable of operating independently from the traditional grid. In the latest such project, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) will become the first major American airport to be 100 percent powered by a microgrid.

In an interview, Tom Woodrow, VP of engineering, Allegheny County Airport Authority, said being able to maintain operations and always be open for business was top of mind for Pittsburgh’s airport.

“The primary goal was to avoid being the next Atlanta or LA and to be able to get that resilience and reliability. And, secondarily, to reduce the cost of electricity to the airport authority and our tenants,” he said.

The microgrid will include 22.5 megawatts of generating capacity, with 20 megawatts coming from natural gas-fired generators and 2.5 megawatts from a ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation.

Construction of the microgrid is scheduled to take 19 months, with the system expected to be online and fully commissioned in June 2021.

Numerous airports embracing microgrids
Pittsburgh International Airport’s microgrid continues a trend that has gained momentum since Atlanta’s 2017 outage, said Isaac Maze-Rothstein, a microgrid analyst with Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.

Atlanta’s outage has led to a “shift in thinking for airport operators,” Maze-Rothstein said.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsMicrogrids Take Off Among Airport Operators

Asia-Pacific Presents Largest Opportunity For Microgrid Market

on November 15, 2019

Asia Pacific is expected to continue to be the largest overall market for microgrids, with remote segments making up the majority opportunity.

This is according to a newly released report from Navigant Research, which analyzes regional microgrid capacity, implementation spending, and business model type, providing global forecasts, segmented by region and market type, through 2028.

North America remains the top market for grid-tied microgrids, as a flurry of projects identified in 2019 increased starting point capacity levels in 2019 beyond those previously forecast.

Meanwhile, Latin America is the fastest growing market due in part to the major island-wide microgrid program in Puerto Rico.

The report also found that although microgrid technologies have dropped in cost, and controls functionality has improved, regulatory barriers and long project development cycles continue to frustrate efforts to move this market fully into the mainstream.

However, significant progress has been made in the last decade and is expected to continue.

“The total global market for microgrids in 2019 is estimated at $8.1bn and expected to near $40bn by 2028,” says Peter Asmus, research director with Navigant Research. “While different market segments have shifted in prominence over the years, what has remained consistent is overall growth across all five major regions profiled.”

The report, Microgrids Overview, forecasts regional capacity, implementation spending, and business model type by six primary market segments. The study also provides an analysis of market drivers, barriers, and technology issues. Global market forecasts, segmented by region and market type, extend through 2028.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsAsia-Pacific Presents Largest Opportunity For Microgrid Market

Airport Microgrid in Northern California Looks to Create Replicable Model

on November 15, 2019

An airport microgrid is moving forward on the far northern coast of California that could provide relief for planned utility power shutoffs and be a template for other, similar projects.

The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid began about two years ago when Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors gave the green light for the project to seek up to $5 million in funding from the California Energy Commission.

The project originated at the Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC), an affiliate of Humboldt State University’s Environmental Resources Engineering program. Other partners on the project include the county’s Public Works Aviation Division, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), which is a community choice aggregation.

SERC also took the lead in designing and implementing the microgrid at Blue Lake Rancheria, a Native American reservation in Humboldt County. The Redwood Coast Airport project was conceived as SERC was finishing up the microgrid for the casino and hotel at Blue Lake Rancheria, said Jim Zoellick, managing research engineer at SERC.

“We were wondering what to do next,” Zoellick said. “We had received funding through the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge, and knew there was another round of microgrids coming.”
EPIC, a $130 million a year ratepayer funded research project, has so far provided $84.5 million for 20 microgrid projects at 30 sites.

Isolated by mudslides and wildfires
Mudslides and wildfires sometimes close access to the two main highways to the region, and the Redwood Coast Airport becomes the only means of contact with the rest of the world. Not only does the region face isolating natural disasters, but it is also electrically remote. There are some local generating plants, but otherwise the area, which has a peak load of about 170 MW, is served by a single, 70 MW high voltage transmission line.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsAirport Microgrid in Northern California Looks to Create Replicable Model

Microgrid Industry to California: Help Us Help You

on November 11, 2019

The recommendations are pouring into the California Public Utilities Commission as it attempts to translate into regulation a law (SB 1339) that calls for the state to facilitate the commercialization of microgrids (19-09-009).

When the law was passed last year, its backers saw microgrids as good risk planning. Now the risk is real with massive power shutoffs in recent weeks by utilities attempting to avert wildfires. The state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, has warned that such outages could be the norm for a decade.

Millions of Californians have lost power, inducing anger, chaos and economic loss. For those who rely on medical devices that run on electricity, the outages mean danger.

“As planned power shutdowns interrupt daily life and business for hundreds of thousands of ratepayers — and pocketbooks, health, and even life for the most vulnerable — it is imperative that California accelerate action on implementing microgrids,” said the California Hydrogen Business Council in comments filed with the commission.

Microgrid companies see surge in inquiries
Not surprisingly, microgrid companies report a surge in requests for installations from California businesses, communities and institutions seeking a way to ensure that they have power when the utility shuts down its service.

“Since the first widespread PSPS [public service power shutoffs] event in June, demand for distributed energy resources has spiked and has begun to surpass supply,” Scale Microgrid told the commission. “It is inevitable that California’s grid will become more distributed with or without the help of the state.”

But the speed and equity of the microgrid ramp up depends on the state stepping up and rethinking its microgrid strategies for the short and long-term, Scale Microgrid added.

Others told the commission that overly restrictive permitting rules and interconnection requirements stymie microgrid installations.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsMicrogrid Industry to California: Help Us Help You

Five Things To Know About Microgrids

on November 1, 2019

More than 1 million Californians were left in the dark for days recently as their big utility companies shut off power for fear of sparking wildfires. Frustrated by those outages, some homeowners say they’d like to turn their backs on the companies in favor of smaller providers who might do a better job of keeping the lights on. The mayors of San Francisco and San Jose say they want to sever ties with Pacific Gas and Electric, which serves much of Northern California, and create separate utilities for their cities.

Grasping for solutions, people toss around ideas like joining “microgrids” or setting up banks of generators to keep the electricity flowing during widespread power cutoffs. Would that really help?

What, exactly, is a microgrid?

A microgrid can be as simple as a single home operating on its own solar power, or a complex series of connections between a power source and distribution lines to end users. It can run a business, a neighborhood or even a city. It can be any size and may be fueled by renewable energy stored in batteries, or by generators run on a conventional fuel such as diesel.

Here’s Chris Marnay, a senior scientific fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who wrote the definition of microgrid that is used by the U.S. Department of Energy: “There are two characteristics: It is a locally controlled system, and it can function either connected to the grid or as an electrical island.”

How many microgrids are in California?

It’s difficult to say how many have sprouted across the state and are now dotting the landscape, producing and sharing their own energy. Such systems include small neighborhood operations and one that runs the desert town of Borrego Springs.

That town, and others like it, are known as end-of-the-line communities, lying just beyond the reach of power companies’ distribution lines. For those small locales, and for residents in many rural parts of California, a microgrid is the only choice if they want power.

Many state universities have training-wheels versions that use small solar arrays to power a building or a section of the campus. UC San Diego runs a much larger system that provides up to 90% of campus electricity.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsFive Things To Know About Microgrids

H-E-B as a ‘Community Hero’ during Hurricane Harvey

on November 1, 2019

The Texas-based H-E-B grocery store chain served by Enchanted Rock’s microgrids exemplifies the comprehensive benefits of a microgrid backup solution in a retail setting.

Among retail businesses, grocery stores are especially vulnerable to power outages. They have freezers full of food that must be kept at sub-zero temperatures, prepared foods that will spoil quickly if not kept at the correct temperature, perishable foods such as dairy, fish and meat that must be properly cooled and, often, a pharmacy with temperature sensitive medicines.

Even relatively short power outages can be costly to grocers. Federal government guidelines recommend discarding any perishable foods, such as meat, fish, poultry and eggs, that have been held at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for longer than two hours. The value of perishable foods runs anywhere from about $400,000 to $900,000 at a single store, according to a report from Western Illinois University.

Enchanted Rock’s resiliency microgrids run on natural gas, which has a robust underground supply chain that rarely becomes disrupted.

In addition, losses from power outages are commonly not covered by insurance. Although some policies cover perishables with a spoilage rider, grocers still tend to face high losses because most insurance policies have a 12- to 24-hour waiting period. Contrarily, most spoilage occurs within the first three hours after an outage.

Faced with the potential of high outage-related losses, H-E-B needed a solution. The grocery chain was founded at the beginning of the 20th Century, and it has grown into an enterprise with $23 billion in annual sales and more than 370 stores in the U.S. and Mexico. Forty-five of the stores operate in the Houston area, which is especially vulnerable to outages caused by the high winds and flooding from storms sweeping across the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season.

H-E-B Houston area stores had experienced intermittent power outages, according to George Presses, H-E-B vice president of fuel and energy. Presses felt the store needed a reliable backup power system that would keep them up and running “without any interruption to our partners, customers, or communities due to a weather event or a general, short term grid outage.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsH-E-B as a ‘Community Hero’ during Hurricane Harvey

Microgrids Alone Cannot Eliminate Wildfire Risk

on October 25, 2019

The only thing more important to America’s electric companies than protecting the nation’s energy grid is ensuring the safety of our customers and our communities.

National Weather Service modeling in Northern California recently showed high-risk areas, or “red flag warnings,” where wind patterns were alarmingly similar to the deadly October 2017 events that resulted in more than 20 fires in Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) service territory. That led to the company’s recent decision to use a public safety power shutoff, which, while extraordinary, protected property and saved lives.

With more people living in high-risk areas, we must confront the growing threat of fires and their impacts on people, property, and infrastructure. One suggestion has been to do away with the interconnected energy grid and rely instead on microgrids. As the thinking goes, this would address fire risk by eliminating infrastructure that can be compromised by high winds or other hazards.

To paraphrase H.L. Mencken: For every complex problem, there’s a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.

That is not to say that microgrids cannot play a valuable role in supporting a safe, reliable, affordable, clean and secure energy grid. Across the United States, microgrids have been built or are being considered to help solve localized challenges or to provide power for customers that need to exceed 99.9% reliability.

But microgrids are expensive to build, and the ones being built today still are connected to the energy grid because the grid’s interconnectedness allows electric companies to leverage a broad set of tools, characteristics and capabilities that enhance resilience in ways that a self-contained microgrid cannot.

This includes the grid’s ability to integrate diverse resources, including more and more renewables. There also is benefit from enhanced situational awareness, using the ubiquitous infrastructure to sense anomalies and facilitate response. And, the energy grid provides redundancy, limiting single points of failure and withstanding extraordinary conditions, but also recovering quickly when Mother Nature or malicious actors impact operations.

Having the capability to island off sections of the energy grid during emergency situations is one tool in the toolbox for electric companies. There also are technologies that enable energy grid operators to shut off more targeted segments of the system strategically, or to reroute power and still deliver electricity to communities, while safely de-energizing lines where necessary.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsMicrogrids Alone Cannot Eliminate Wildfire Risk