Calculating Reliability for Microgrids Means Understanding Risks, Consequences

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A new white paper from PowerSecure explores how to calculate reliability for microgrids, including the need to understand the risks and consequences of outages. In the face of uncertain times, there is a great need for highly reliable power solutions. The number and duration of outages are increasing and because solutions to large scale outages will take years to implement, the author explains that “many organizations are opting for a better approach to protect themselves — microgrids.”

reliability for microgrids

Get the full report.

The paper first explains what a microgrid is and isn’t. Microgrids are not the standby power that is traditionally found at hospitals, data centers and other critical businesses. These systems initiate when there is a power loss and are designed to run for a few days or weeks. Microgrids, on the other hand, are designed to operate at all times — when the power is flowing from the grid and when it’s not.

“Another distinguishing feature of microgrids is that they typically integrate diverse energy resources, such as electric utility, solar, wind, battery storage, fuel cells, natural gas, clean diesel and renewable fuels,” according to the paper. A microgrid can also help the grid by adding capacity and other grid stabilizing services.

“Customers have the ultimate responsibility for knowing the consequences of a power failure. Demands for 100% reliability reflect a failure to acknowledge consequences.” — PowerSecure, “High Reliability Microgrids for an Uncertain Future”

Many customers choose to install a microgrid because of the reliability it can provide. But the paper asserts that it’s crucial that designers, operators and owners understand the importance of correctly calculating reliability. The author notes that “offsetting income can be helpful, but the key to microgrid financing is putting a value on reliability and understanding risk.” One way to understand the reliability of a system is to calculate risks as a function of predicted annual load loss.

Steve Fairfax, president of MTechnology, provides more in-depth information on how you can measure and calculate the reliability of microgrids in this video.

The white paper explains that data collection over time is the best way to understand — and improve — reliability for microgrids. The author illustrates the benefits of data collection over time by explaining how MTechnology (MTech) analyzed data from nearly 2,000 PowerSecure generators to evaluate the reliability of its microgrids. According to the paper, MTech’s initial analysis in 2011 “found a 95% probability of PowerSecure’s microgrids functioning for the duration of a utility outage, an exact match with the reliability of standby generators in industrial service.” PowerSecure initiated a reliability growth management program to provide feedback and determine the root causes of a power failure. The paper concludes by sharing what the company found and how it was able to increase reliability to 98.7%.

Download the full report from PowerSecure to learn more about calculating reliability for microgrids. 

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