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Right-Sizing Your Microgrid

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In today’s energy landscape, there are three main factors that are driving organizations to install distributed energy microgrid solutions at their facilities.

  1. Sustainability – Reducing your carbon footprint through production of clean energy.
  2. Resiliency – The ability to disconnect from the utility and maintain some, or all, of your energy needs.
  3. Financial – Saving money by producing your own electricity.

These three factors are straightforward, but after you have identified the driving factor behind your decision to install a microgrid, what comes next? How do you determine the correct size microgrid for your needs? EnTech Solutions has the technologies and expertise to support you through all the steps needed to design the most appropriate system.

The first step in sizing is to get a good understanding of your current facility load. Some utilities collect this information and can provide it to their customers upon request, but most do not. If your utility does not have this information available, a meter can be installed to monitor and report out your energy load over a period of time.

The next step is to have a conversation with your utility provider, and EnTech can also handle this (at your direction). The two important pieces of information needed from this conversation are what power capacity the utility will allow at your site, and whether they will allow any excess power generated to be pushed back to the grid.

At this point, we have the information needed to start sizing your microgrid system, and it’s time to circle back to the driving factors. Any microgrid system will provide some sustainability, resilience and financial savings, but prioritizing your specific energy goals provides further direction on your final design.

For sustainability, the focus will be on including as much clean energy generation as possible on a site. The more renewable energy that your system is able to generate, the less energy that’s needed from fossil fuel sources. If your utility will allow you to push back excess energy to the grid, your clean energy can have an even greater impact; other customers on the same distribution system will be able to utilize that green energy.

A resiliency focus will call for maximum levels of power to be the focus of the design. When the utility is unavailable, the generation assets that are selected must be able to support the load independently. This includes not only steady-state loads, but also any spikes caused by motor inrush currents or transformer magnetization currents. If your overall power requirement is very high, it is possible to split the critical portion of your overall load and provide backup for only these critical loads. Once the required power level for the system is established, the energy component will determine how long it’s able to support the loads when off grid.

When driving for the highest financial impact, a balance between power and energy will be made based on your utility pricing structure. Some utilities charge customers only for the energy that they consume, so the microgrid can be designed to maximize generation. Other utilities charge based on peak demand. In these cases, your microgrid can be designed to minimize the draw from the utility at any given time to limit the demand charges incurred. In most cases, it is a mix of the two. Through the use of our Energy DNA™ tool, we can model many iterations to maximize financial impact.

What happens if your load changes down the road? Or if your utility pricing shifts to more of a demand charge focus? Who is watching to make sure that your system is optimized to help you meet your objectives? Through our EnTech Energy Center™, we monitor the systems that we have deployed to ensure that they are doing just that. If there are changes to your load or pricing tariff, we can go back through the modeling process to confirm or reconfigure and can identify opportunities for improvement. These recommendations could include utilizing the same hardware in a different control fashion for a greater impact, or they could involve additions to your system for increased generation.

There are many factors to ensure that your system is right sized to help you achieve your objectives. The microgrid team at EnTech Solutions has the experience to support you and will be with you every step of the way. Contact us today to talk through your energy goals.