Microgrid Demonstration Project Tests Military, Other Uses

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A microgrid demonstration project hosted by the US Navy and sponsored by the California Energy Commission will shine a light on how effective microgrids can be in providing demand charge management, load shifting, and solar firming.

Just as important, the project will evaluate how well a photovoltaic solar system, used with batteries, disconnected from the grid, can provide energy for critical loads.

Imergy Power Systems, which provided batteries for the microgrid, says all this is possible — and also says that similar systems equipped with solar and Imergy batteries will compete with grid power by 2016.

“When we look at competitiveness in various markets, we expect to be competitive in 2016 with the grid,” says Herve Mazzocco, Imergy’s director of business development. In some areas, such as Hawaii, the systems are already competitive, he notes.

The solar firming aspect of the microgrid demonstration project is the most important, he says. It will study how solar combined with energy storage and microgrid controls can provide energy for critical loads and keep a facility up and running if the grid goes down.

“This is very relevant for the Department of Defense because access to affordable, reliable energy for personnel and equipment safety can be a life-or-death matter,” he says.

Part of the project’s goal is to show that solar-plus-storage can be a better choice than diesel fuel because it’s hard to predict the cost of diesel.

“This will reduce dependence on diesel fuel and foreign oil, as well,” he says.

What’s more, the US Navy produces 12 percent of its power from renewable sources. Using energy storage and microgrid controls can optimize the use of renewable energy in these facilities.

The demonstration project will also take a look at how the microgrid can anticipate and react to peak demand costs and reduce demand charges. In addition, it tests load shifting, which involves charging when electricity is cheap and releasing it from energy storage when prices are high.

“The goal of the project is to develop applications to optimize power production at mission critical facilities, whether they are hospitals or military installations,” he says.

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