Microgrids are the future of green energy
Katrick Technologies' CTO, Karthik Velayathum, explains the importance of microgeneration technology in the energy landscape of the future.
Uncertainty in the energy market and a push for renewables is driving an expansion in microgrid deployment, with Navigant Research estimating that there is around 27 gigawatts (GW) of self-contained system capacity either planned or installed worldwide. With growing interest in energy independence, the microgrid market is set to increase to $63.2 billion by 2027, and new innovations will be crucial in supporting their implementation.
As of 2022, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2027 the world will have added as much renewable power as it did in the past 20 years a staggering 85 per cent acceleration from the five previous years. This boost, primarily from reforms by the United States, the European Union, China, and India, means that by 2027, renewables could account for up to 90 per cent of global electricity capacity expansion.
To support this growth, the challenges that come with renewables must be addressed. By nature, renewable energy is climate dependent and greener sources tend to be more unpredictable and intermittent — generation fluctuates with the natural shift in availability of sun, wind, and waves. This makes energy storage essential in ensuring consistency and reliability.
Microgrids are also gaining interest as a solution to support the future of energy and to alleviate strain on existing power infrastructure. Moving away from centralised power plants to localised, distributed networks with microgeneration offer a host of benefits, both on an individual or community scale, and in the wider context of the global energy transition.
Having an independent, self-sufficient grid in proximity to the area it serves mitigates the loss of the around eight to fifteen per cent of electricity that dissipates when it is transported from a central power station via a distribution network in a traditional grid. This inefficiency is addressed by having the power source and generator geographically close together, meaning that more of the power is accessible to the user.
Microgrids are inherently more flexible, with greater resilience to instability or problems with the central grid. They can also allow for faster and more effective recovery when issues do arise. Not only are they more resilient in the first place, microgrids are reliable in keeping the power on in the event of an outage. Through ‘islanding’, microgrids detect when the supply from the main network is disrupted and switch seamlessly to the local power source. A crucial example of where this is beneficial is in times of disaster or conflict, when power supplies may be affected, or central stations compromised.
Microgrid users are also protected against unexpected peaks in the energy market, and the enhanced control over a microgrid allows effective budgeting and regulation of energy supply against demand. Using battery energy storage systems (BESS) can reduce costs even further by countering the variability in energy price fluctuation, with users able to configure their energy use and BESS charging around capacity requirements.
In terms of the green transition, microgrids will encourage more people to utilise distributed sources of power, increasing the generation capacity of renewables overall. Thanks to the smarter capabilities of microgrids and the integration of BESS, users are able to blend a range of power sources seamlessly, opening the possibility of small-scale energy generation to individuals, businesses and communities that may not have been able to access it before. With renewable capacity already set to accelerate drastically, this technology is an attractive option that allows users to take control over their own energy supply.
As highlighted by Deloitte in 2021, 21st century climate problems cannot be solved by 20th century solutions. So while traditional technologies such as turbines are still a mainstay of renewable energy, innovation is essential to drive the next generation of green power and harness natural resources to their full potential for microgeneration. Solar is already a popular choice for microgeneration applications, with around 1.2 million homes in the UK alone already using them. However, due to factors such as geographical location, planning permission, architecture and the fluctuations in sunlight availability, solar isn’t always suitable for every small site. Using other complementary renewable sources to power a microgrid is highly beneficial in maximising the potential of these systems.
Wind power can be used independently or blended with solar and other sources for microgeneration, but at present the technology to do this on a small scale is limited. Wind turbines are typically very large and require a significant geographical footprint, making them inaccessible to anyone in a populous or industrial area wishing to harness wind power to implement a microgrid. They are also limited to a specific range of wind speeds and frequencies due to their height and configuration.
Katrick Technologies has developed a novel form of wind power generation that can be integrated into microgrids of varying scales. The hexagonal panels use patented aerofoil technology to convert wind into mechanical vibrations which is then used to generate green energy. The panels, which will be available in various sizes to meet user requirements, are smaller and less obtrusive than turbines, making them easy to integrate and more scalable, as an installation can contain as many panels as necessary depending on the energy needs of the microgrid.
The technology is modular and flexible, able to be located in a wide range of environments and able to capture a larger range of winds than traditional turbines. Compatible with BESS and easy to install, the wind panels will be an alternative option for microgrid users wishing to harness wind power but limited by the challenges of traditional turbines, such as size, cost, and location. The panels are generating interest for their potential in energy generation, with Katrick Technologies recently meeting with Ofgem, National Grid and the Energy Networks Association to discuss funding opportunities to bring behind-the-meter and off grid solutions to the energy market via the implementation of the panels.
This innovation offers affordable, low maintenance solutions to renewable energy generation for greater flexibility and independence. The journey towards carbon neutrality and more sustainable power generation is certainly picking up pace. As innovation makes microgeneration more accessible, microgrids offer a way to reduce reliance and stress on the grid, and help to pave the way to a greener, brighter future.