As smart cities continue to capture the interest of many, several discussions are going on about how to supply energy efficiently and cost-effectively. Supporting city-wide infrastructure integrated with technology requires a reliable source of energy. Microgrids could be that solution!
A microgrid is a small and local network of energy sources that supply energy to that same local area. The microgrid connects to the national grid or centralized power source, but can also operate independently. Additionally, microgrids consist of distributed generation sources, including several renewable energy generators, and involve energy storage capabilities.
So how do energy microgrids fit into the future of smart cities and those communities?
Generating electricity from coal-burning power plants is undoubtedly one of the most significant contributors to carbon emissions and climate change. Implementing microgrids means incorporating solar, wind, and biofuel or biogas energy sources to alleviate the demand for energy from adverse sources. Installing solar panels or wind turbines atop of buildings can harness renewable sources to generate and store electrical and heat energy. The flexibility to use different power generation systems reduces a community’s overall reliance on fossil fuels. In many urban settings, delivering clean energy at that large of a scale remains a challenge. Local grids are designed to provide power at the right level to meet the needs of the community it serves.
In the event of a power outage, a microgrid can operate independently from the larger grid. Local power generation and storage capabilities are virtually unaffected by disturbances to the macro-grid. In fact, having a microgrid as a backup for when there’s a power outage is smart community planning. Smart sensors can respond or anticipate disruptions to power sources. With a redundant power source in place, first responders, government agencies, and other critical services can respond to emergencies in the event of some disaster. Further, the network of individual grids can actually supply energy back to the central grid, since the microgrids generate real-time power and can store the supply.
Economy Boosting Solution
The local community takes charge of its energy supply by either having a private entity or an area energy service provider manage the microgrid. Integrating this technology into a community stimulates the local economy or market. New jobs are created to install and maintain the grids, and stakeholders find energy microgrids to be an attractive investment opportunity. Consumers themselves get to save money on power costs, which lets them put those dollars towards other areas in their community. Those who rely on power from the central grid pay higher prices than those using locally generated power. This price difference is because their bill includes power lost in transmission costs, higher pricing during high energy demand hours, and customer service overhead.
Not only can microgrid consumers reduce their spending on energy, but they can also receive incentives to support the system. For example, drivers of plug-in electric vehicles can use their car battery as a power storage resource for the grid. Innovations in the technological and entrepreneurial avenues foster further economic growth and community improvements. The microgrid energy system capabilities are designed and built with the idea that it will adapt to support future innovations.
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