Microgrids are a hot topic in the power generation industry. It feels like you can’t go more than a couple of days without seeing another article on microgrids. And no wonder – a report from Solar Energy Industries Association states that the U.S. installed microgrid capacity has reached more than 97 GW total – enough to power around 18 million homes – with 19.2 GW installed in 2020 alone. Outside of the U.S., there is a lot of talk about rural electrification in developing regions – bringing power to remote communities with combinations of clean solar and energy storage to power villages that currently have no power.
What is a microgrid? There are a number of varying definitions for what a microgrid is. Here are points that all of the definitions agree on:
But why all the buzz now? Microgrids are not new – Caterpillar has been providing diesel and gas generator sets for microgrids for decades. What has changed is the emergence of cost-effective renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaics and wind. This has effectively made renewable powered microgrids a financially attractive alternative to more traditional power generation. Add to this the advances in cost-effective energy storage and you can have a reliable system that produces energy at very low costs. This has driven the interest in the “new” microgrid systems.