Microgrids are Defining the New Energy Landscape

In this edition of Industry Perspectives, Pablo Astorga, ABB’s global sales manager Microgrids, explains how microgrids are defining the new energy landscape.

Pablo Astorga, Global Sales Manager Microgrids, ABB

Pablo Astorga, global sales manager microgrids, ABB

Over the last decade, much focus has been put on how to green up the grid. This is of course logical given the dramatic cost reduction undergone by renewable energy technologies. Initially through subsidies and more recently on a purely competitive basis, large wind and solar farms have been built around the world and connected to the main electrical grid.

However, less attention has been paid so far to so-called microgrids. A microgrid is a group of interconnected loads, distributed generation assets and other energy resources that act as a single controllable entity. A microgrid can be either remote and off-grid or installed in densely populated areas and connected to the main grid. Either way, their main characteristic is their ability to operate in an independent manner while combining different assets and loads.

Operating a microgrid offers a number of inherent advantages. In addition to providing lower electricity costs and flexibility in size, microgrids also increase power price predictability by adding renewable energy with no fuel price volatility. These systems also help reduce the user’s carbon footprint and provide a safe and reliable source of power. Aren’t these critical aspects to industrial and commercial energy users alike?

Micro in size, macro in benefits

In light of this, ABB just invested in a microgrid at its own facility at the Longmeadow Business Park in Johannesburg (South Africa). The site is connected to the grid, but given South Africa’s current power shortage there is an existing set of diesel generators in place in order to guarantee power security in the absence of grid power – which is unfortunately not at all uncommon.

ABB to install microgrid solution in South Africa integrating multiple energy sources. (Photo: ABB)

ABB to install microgrid solution in South Africa integrating multiple energy sources. (Photo: ABB)

With the new microgrid, ABB will cover most of its daytime power needs from a new solar photovoltaic system installed on the roof of the building. In addition to that, a battery system will be installed in order to store any excess energy. From peak shaving to smooth transitioning between grid-connected and off-grid operation, this microgrid will provide a number of benefits that will allow ABB to reduce its energy cost while providing local, more secure and cleaner electricity.

This project will be the first of its kind in Africa and will not only provide the company with numerous benefits; it will also serve as a showcase of state-of-the-art microgrid technology that will be available for customers and partners to visit. Naturally, the system’s unique automation and grid stabilization solution will guarantee at all times an optimal energy mix between solar, diesel, batteries and grid power.

Distributed generation and the reduced cost of renewable energy are defining a new energy vision in which microgrids already play a key role and serve as the perfect paradigm. Being the market leader is not only about serving your customers with the best products and solutions. It’s also about leading by example and proving, with an investment at your own facility, that those solutions are indeed what we need in order to provide power and productivity for a better world.

As ABB’s global sales manager microgrids, Pablo Astorga is responsible for developing complete microgrid solutions for customers around the world. He has nearly a decade of extensive international experience in renewable energy and joined the company in 2006 in Spain. Pablo lived in the U.S. between 2009 and 2014 and in 2015 relocated back to Europe, from where he leads ABB’s efforts to address the increasing need to integrate renewable energy into hybrid microgrids.

Meet representatives of ABB on May 19, 2016 at the Microgrid Knowledge Conference in NYC.

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