Cummins Launches New Microgrid Control System

on November 20, 2020

Cummins announced a new microgrid control product line this week, calling it a one-stop-shop of solutions to simplify operations and save money. The controller systems have options for existing microgrids and give new customers more straightforward controls and cost savings.

The company launched the new product as more than 4,100 participants joined Microgrid 2020 Global, a virtual conference sponsored this week by Microgrid Knowledge.

The company calls the launch a critical milestone for its existing master control product line used with various applications worldwide. The addition of new controllers can simplify and integrate microgrid configurations.

The new controller system also brings a “peace-of-mind guarantee” to its customers, building on Cummins’ core expertise in supervisory controls, power generation, and comprehensive customer service, states the company’s news release.

Ann Kristin deVerdier, executive director of Cummins energy management says, “We continue to invest in future technologies and products to meet emission requirements around the world and to work with our stakeholders in supporting decarbonization. For the power generation market, this includes integrated microgrid solutions with battery storage, system-level controls and over time, hydrogen technologies in addition to diesel and natural gas.”

The company says its new system will optimize distributed energy resources (DERs) for existing users and help new and prospective microgrid adopters —  particularly those reluctant to invest in a distributed generation system. 

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCummins Launches New Microgrid Control System

What Does a Joe Biden Presidency Mean for Microgrids?

on November 16, 2020

Microgrids, already growing in demand because of wildfires, hurricanes, the pandemic and energy equity issues, are likely to soon experience another boost — the climate policies of President-elect Joe Biden.

Biden’s “Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice” makes several pledges that could influence the microgrid market:

  • A “historic investment” of $1.7 trillion in clean energy, climate research and innovation over the next decade
  • Incentives for rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities impacted by climate change
  • Spending by federal facilities on clean energy resilience
  • The linking of environmental justice to energy planning

“With his shift in priorities to a lower carbon energy future and away from propping up various aspects of the fossil fuel industry, the election of Joe Biden as president can only help microgrids – especially those incorporating renewable energy. Rather than focused on dated arguments pitting the economy against the environment, Biden buys into the value proposition that new clean energy technologies are the wave of the future,” said Peter Asmus, research director for Guidehouse Research.

Congressional Democrats already have signaled their support for microgrids in the “Moving Forward Act,” legislation introduced in June that specifically named microgrids as part of its $1.7 trillion infrastructure proposal. The legislation would offer financial and technical assistance, grant programs, and feasibility studies for microgrids, as well as various incentives for distributed energy resources.

In addition, Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán from California and Yvette Clarke from New York recently introduced the Energy Resilient Communities Act, which would specifically provide $1.5 billion in grants for clean energy microgrids. 

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsWhat Does a Joe Biden Presidency Mean for Microgrids?

Key Players Shed Light on Why the Microgrid Market is Growing

on November 16, 2020

Natural disasters, the pandemic, new business models and state policies drive the microgrid market forward, while regulatory hurdles hold it back, say industry players who will be speaking November 17-19 at Microgrid 2020 Global.

The natural disasters spurring microgrid growth include hurricanes and wildfires. In some cases, the wildfires have prompted utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric in California and Pacific Power in Oregon to implement public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) to reduce the risks of fires from electrical equipment.

“This year has certainly brought its challenges, with COVID, a very active hurricane season, and fires in the west,” said Allan Schurr, chief commercial officer, Enchanted Rock. “As a result, we’re seeing companies focused on crisis-proofing operations before the next event.”

Schurr was among several Microgrid 2020 Global speakers that Microgrid Knowledge interviewed in advance of the upcoming event, which has drawn thousands of registrants worldwide.

Echoing Schurr’s idea, Gary Leatherman, vice president, power advisory and smart and distributed energy for Worley, said, “To keep the lights on during PSPS, entities looked to develop solutions; this increased the demand for microgrids.”

Added Paul Roege, vice president for strategic initiatives, Typhoon HIL, “It seems clear that the greatest impact on microgrid projects has been broad impacts of disruptive events — particularly natural disasters, with some contributions by human actors.”

Increased demand also is coming from areas ravaged by hurricanes.

Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, even though it occurred in 2017, continues to spark significant interest in that area, said Harold Ruckpaul, director, strategic alliances, Eaton.

In the face of storms and wildfires, energy security is critical, said Kati Sidwall, simulation specialist for RTDS. “Our standards for power system protection and control must change. Increasing the deployment of microgrids that can operate securely and effectively is part of the solution, as is examining the performance of existing protection and control schemes under a wide variety of contingency scenarios,” she said.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsKey Players Shed Light on Why the Microgrid Market is Growing

California Awards $3.5 Million for Microgrid at Frito-Lay Food Processing Plant

on November 13, 2020

The California Energy Commission has awarded Frito-Lay a $3.5 million grant to build a solar-powered microgrid at a food processing facility in a project the agency is touting as a model for the industry.

The microgrid will be installed at a snack food processing facility in Rancho-Cucamonga, California, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to allow the plant to keep running during power outages.

SunPower will provide the project’s solar equipment and microgrid controller while Tesla will supply the project’s energy storage component, according to the CEC, which approved the grant Nov. 10.

The solar panels are expected to produce about 3,500 MWh a year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 850 metric tons annually. The battery system will be able to supply the plant’s critical load for up to six hours before needing to be recharged.

CEC sees microgrid as industry model
“By implementing a microgrid at a food processor, this project will demonstrate the benefits of renewable energy production and electricity reliability to other industrial customers, as well as the benefits of microgrid technology more broadly to utilities and other involved parties,” Kevin Uy, a CEC staff in the agency’s energy research and development division, said in a memo supporting the grant.

Microgrids can help food production facilities deal with planned and unplanned power outages, which can lead to significant financial and product losses, Uy said during the meeting when the commission unanimously approved the grant.

Also, solar microgrids provide a renewable alternative to backup diesel generators, according to Uy.

The battery storage component provides customers with cost savings and resiliency while supporting the grid through strategic charging and discharging, Uy said.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCalifornia Awards $3.5 Million for Microgrid at Frito-Lay Food Processing Plant

Energy for the People: Microgrids and the Democratization of Energy

on November 13, 2020

The US has made significant efforts towards modernizing its electrical grid, yet the existing disparity in power quality and electricity savings achieved among communities and individual consumers demonstrates we still have ways to go. When microgrids were first introduced, they offered a viable technology solution to help consumers upgrade their energy infrastructure. With their ability to integrate cleaner resources into our power mix, mitigate costs and increase reliability, microgrids transformed the way we consumed our electricity.

Although microgrids have been around for quite some time, it wasn’t until recent years that we saw adoption quickly spread among municipalities, large commercial buildings, campuses and critical facilities. As we experienced first-hand the resilience and sustainability benefits microgrids offer, especially in the face of severe weather and prolonged blackouts, the more cities and businesses considered the technology as part of their energy infrastructure strategy.

Fast forward to today, technological advancements and the maturation of innovative business models, such as Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS), have further enabled the growth of microgrids. As a model that presented a way to invest in microgrids with little to no upfront capital expense and minimal risk, EaaS was the solution for addressing the biggest financial barrier to deployment and a key driver to the uptick in microgrid adoption.

Microgrids are a viable solution for all organizations seeking to gain control over their energy costs, advance sustainability, and increase resilience, and it’s up to the industry as a whole to help make them accessible to everyone.

Still, the primary customer for microgrids widely remains municipal, district, institutional, commercial campus and large buildings. While we’ve experienced many technological breakthroughs in the last decade to reach more advanced and smarter microgrids, it’ll be the ongoing economic breakthroughs that will enable us to reach mass adoption and transform the power grid as we know it.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsEnergy for the People: Microgrids and the Democratization of Energy

Flow Battery to Be Paired with Solar at South African Vanadium Mine’s Microgrid System

on November 12, 2020

A solar-plus-storage microgrid being deployed at an alloys mine in South Africa will feature a vanadium flow battery energy storage system, using locally sourced vanadium electrolyte.

The micro, or mini-grid, will serve close to 10% of total electrical consumption required at the Vametco Alloys integrating vanadium mining and processing plant in the North West Province of South Africa.

Pairing 3.5MW of solar PV generation with the 1MW / 4MWh vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) storage unit, the project will also serve to demonstrate the capabilities and benefits of VRFBs, according to Bushveld Minerals, the company behind the project.

Bushveld owns the Vametco mine and has appointed European infrastructure solutions company Abengoa as engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partner on the project, with Abengoa also providing its proprietary energy management system technology to operate the microgrid.

Abengoa said it has already commissioned 250MW of power generation projects with energy storage in Africa over the past 10 years, as well as being its fourth such project in South Africa. The Vametco project is, however, the first-ever commercial-scale hybrid project on the African continent to use VRFB technology, Abengoa said. Abengoa will install the Vametco Alloys project’s solar PV as well as integrating the system and providing maintenance after commissioning.

The vanadium flow battery provider to the project will be Enerox, which Bushveld also owns. Enerox produces systems under the brand name CellCube. Enerox CEO Alexander Schoenfeldt said that he expected the hybrid installation to “become a blueprint for many more to come”.

Vametco will provide 25 tonnes of vanadium oxide to be converted for use as electrolyte in the battery system. Bushveld said that the use of “locally mined and beneficiated vanadium” shows how “VRFB energy solutions can create more local value to South Africa than any other storage technology”.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsFlow Battery to Be Paired with Solar at South African Vanadium Mine’s Microgrid System

A Virtual-Oscillator-Based Control Strategy For Microgrids

on November 4, 2020

Keeping the grid stable is often synonymous with keeping frequency within a narrow band. Deviations manifest as changes in the voltage and microgrids entirely powered by distributed solar generators are more sensitive to the issue than utility grids fed by a multitude of power sources.

Keeping the grid stable is often synonymous with keeping frequency within a narrow band. Deviations manifest as changes in the voltage and microgrids entirely powered by distributed solar generators are more sensitive to the issue than utility grids fed by a multitude of power sources.

Researchers Han Min Htut and Wijarn Wangdee, of King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok, in Thailand, have tackled the issue and proposed a new inverter control strategy. Their findings were published in Engineering Journal as the article Virtual Oscillator Control of Multiple Solar PV Inverters for Microgrid Applications.

A gradual increase in power electronics-interfaced generation methods on the grid has led to a paradigm shift in how grids respond to disturbances. A microgrid powered by very high penetration of small scale solar will have to face the challenge of stable operation, as all those maximum power point trackers (MPPTs) ensure attaining such an outcome is complicated. In the set-up the Thai-based scholars envisioned for their tests, the PV generation sources were connected to the grid with DC-DC boosters. Shading or other changes in irradiation can alter the input voltage for the DC-DC booster, subsequently changing output voltage.

Virtual oscillator control
The academics suggested use of a modified virtual oscillator control (VOC) and a cascaded sliding mode control (SMC) would help optimize microgrid management strategies. When PV output power is higher than the combined loads in the grid, inverters will not use their maximum power point trackers. However, they will switch back to using the algorithm when the power supply dips below demand. The control strategy enables stable operation of 100% solar microgrids even in islanding mode, without requiring energy storage to stabilize voltage frequency.

To achieve that, the Thai group proposed a hybrid controller with a switch between a ‘fast’ MPPT and a slower one for microgrid-integrated solar. In their setup, the power electronics feature a single controller regulating DC-link voltage and MPPT autonomously, without any need for system reconfiguration. Effectively, the two-stage converters can decrease DC-link voltage if the PV capacity cannot meet its droop control command – in which algorithms consider active power frequency and manage the active power output as a function of frequency deviation. Droop control lifts the nadir, the point of widest frequency deviation, and improves the recovery process for grid frequency when large loads are connected.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsA Virtual-Oscillator-Based Control Strategy For Microgrids

Tesla Expanding Into Solar Microgrids And Virtual Power Plants

on November 3, 2020

Elon Musk says he expects Tesla’s energy business will one day be equal to or exceed its automotive business. That day may be some time in the future but the company is clearly expanding its solar and battery operations rapidly, both for grid scale and residential applications.

Last week, Michael Snyder, Tesla’s director of engineering and construction for energy projects posted on Linked In, “If you like solving problems at the nexus of power systems interactions, protection coordination, system and product level controls, and DERs (Powerpacks, Megapacks, solar, and generators), check out the link below for a microgrid-focused product engineer. We have 120+ operational microgrids around the world with high impact to a variety of communities/customers. This is a unique and rewarding role.” That post was followed by a link to apply for a position with Tesla Energy.

According to E&E News, a microgrid is a cluster of energy generators — whether diesel or solar or wind powered — that serves nearby users such as a building or a campus. That cluster “islands” and keeps the lights on even if the regular grid around it blacks out, something that is happening more frequently because of severe storms, wildfires and floods associated with a warming climate. “If you look at the performance of the U.S. grid, it just gets worse and worse and worse,” says Peter Asmus, who studies microgrids as a research director at Guidehouse Insights.

Microgrids “do not always need to be considered bespoke engineering endeavors,” Snyder wrote. “The vast majority can be simplified and systematized into plug-and-play power systems.” He said Tesla microgrids are like its vehicles — modular and capable of over the air monitoring and updates. The same features included in a large solar microgrid in Australia are found in backup power plants for hospitals in Puerto Rico and isolated grids in rural Africa. “The variety and flexibility in application is staggering,” he said, then added that 1,000 Tesla microgrids are possible “in the not so distant future.” Wood Mackenzie says the United States installed 546 microgrids last year.

In September, microgrids in the US got a boost when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued Order No. 2222, which allows energy from distributed resources like solar arrays and batteries to be sold into wholesale regional energy markets. “You definitely have an increase in momentum from all sides,” Asmus says.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsTesla Expanding Into Solar Microgrids And Virtual Power Plants

The Innovations and Organisations Behind Two US Microgrids

on October 28, 2020

As renewable energy generation grows, electricity grids have needed to adapt. Increasingly, smaller-scale generation has allowed communities to set up their own small electricity networks, called microgrids. These promise secure energy supplies, as well as an opportunity for people to invest in their own energy future.

In the US, this can mean less risk exposure to sever weather events, when utilities could take a long time to reach remote communities.

Boston suburb develops ‘microgrid without borders’
The Chelsea suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, has developed a ‘microgrid without borders’ for residents and businesses to opt in to. While Massachusetts rarely faces the full force of hurricanes, towns in storm prone areas of the US have increasingly considered microgrids as a way to ensure power stability.

Maria Belen Power, member of environmental group Green Roots, told Frank News that residents were struck by what they saw during Hurricane Maria in 2017. “It became clear that [the idea of a microgrid] connected with residents because of Hurricane Maria, and it became an opportunity for us to think: ‘How do we do things differently?’.

“What would it look like if Hurricane Maria had hit Chelsea, and how could we be better prepared to deal with a disaster like that and the energy infrastructure that’s not set up to sustain that?”

The microgrid runs in existing grid power cables, but users manage their energy supply using software. Outside of this, there are no extra physical cable connections.

The microgrid would use natural gas generation, along with a battery facility and, if possible, solar panels. The planned battery facility would allow the city to move away from the diesel generators it currently relies upon in emergencies.

The city government has started working with GreenRoots and other climate campaign groups to plan and develop the microgrid. They expect development to take one to two years.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Innovations and Organisations Behind Two US Microgrids

US House Bill Offers $1.5 Billion in Clean Energy Microgrid Grants

on October 23, 2020

A new federal program would offer $1.5 billion in grants for clean energy microgrids under a bill introduced in the House of Representatives.

The bill aims to help fund clean energy microgrids for critical infrastructure, with a focus on low-income communities and communities of color.

The Energy Resilient Communities Act is designed to help combat power outages and rolling blackouts, reduce pollution, create green energy jobs and fight climate change, according to the bill’s Democratic sponsors Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán from California and Yvette Clarke from New York.

“From Superstorm Sandy to summer heat waves, Brooklynites are all too familiar with the impacts of extreme weather on our communities and critical infrastructure,” Clarke said Oct. 20. “And as our nation grapples with record fires out West, and a record hurricane season down South, we know that resilience and equity must be top of mind in all our efforts to build a better and cleaner future.”

Last year, 546 microgrids were installed in the United States. About 86% of them were at least partly powered by fossil-fueled generators, according to the lawmakers.

Ranking clean energy microgrids

The bill would authorize $1.5 billion in annual grants for clean energy microgrids to support the critical infrastructure needed in the aftermath of an extreme weather event. It also offers $50 million for technical assistance.

The legislation reserves at least $150 million of annual funding for grants supporting community-owned energy systems.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUS House Bill Offers $1.5 Billion in Clean Energy Microgrid Grants