Is a Microgrid Right for Your Business?

Jamie Weisman, Business Development & Strategy Manager & Neal Bartek, Project Director - Microgrids, ENGIE Services U.S.

With the increase in both the number and the severity of natural disasters in recent years, widespread, extended power outages are becoming more common. In 2017 alone, there were more than 3,500 power outages that impacted more than 36.7 million people across the United States.

Businesses are not immune to these power outages and must take steps to ensure the resilience of their operations. Depending on the business, a power outage could mean safety hazards, lost revenue, increased expenses (i.e. overtime, expediting, etc.), inventory loss or potential fines, to just name a few examples.

So, how can your business shield itself from power outages and take control of its energy future? The installation of local, distributed energy resources—commonly referred to as a microgrid—that are designed to support critical operations even in the event of a power outage is one such way.

Microgrids can utilize a variety of on-site resources including controllable loads, fuel cells, combined heat and power (CHP), thermal storage, battery energy storage, or renewables such as wind or solar. Intelligent controls are overlaid on these resources to coordinate and optimize their use. During normal operations, the microgrid can manage to various objective functions, such as minimize utility bill or maximize self-consumption. But after a natural disaster, or in preparation for a power outage, the microgrid can manage to different objective functions, such as maximize reliability or maximize duration of critical operations.

Here are five ways a microgrid can provide value to your business:

1) Increase resiliency.

Local, distributed energy resources and intelligent controls will help maintain critical operations when a traditional grid becomes unreliable.

2) Lower utility bills.

Electricity produced by microgrid resources directly offsets electricity that would have otherwise been purchased from the utility. Microgrid resources can also help ‘time shift’ when electricity is purchased from the utility to avoid high peak rate periods or demand charges.

3) Increase revenue.

Microgrid resources can, in many areas, participate in utility programs (i.e. demand response, etc.) and/or energy markets to generate a new source of revenue.

4) Improve power quality.

Microgrid resources can respond to fluctuations in grid power to provide an improved power source for sensitive equipment and processes. In some cases, this improved power quality can reduce maintenance costs for these items.

5) Increase renewable energy supply.

Utilization of on-site renewable energy sources offsets electricity bought from the utility and increases the percentage of consumed power from renewables.

Today’s businesses cannot afford to have operations and assets go down unexpectedly, but a microgrid can help maintain not only smaller, daily functions but larger, unexpected outages as well.

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