The NEC Energy Solutions Blog

Microgrids and energy storage – a natural match

Microgrids position organizations to manage their energy infrastructure with greater precision. Utility providers can use microgrids to segregate critical parts of the grid, for example, to control energy distribution in those areas. Organizations can also convert their internal power distribution systems into a microgrid that lets them manage energy use more effectively. In both cases, microgrids make it much easier to integrate diverse energy sources into the grid.

While the power grid is connected to a variety of generation sites that are organized into a transmission network that feeds into distribution. In many cases, energy resources need to travel a significant distance before reaching users. Microgrids aim to make the grid more responsive by connecting diverse power resources, both primary and backup systems, to improve reliability, responsiveness and redundancy. This often includes using energy storage systems as a backup resource for a microgrid. This is particularly evident in a recent NJ Transit microgrid project.

Looking at the NJ Transit project
A recent Environmental Defense Fund report explained that the NJ Transit project comes, in part, as a response to Hurricane Sandy. When the storm hit the New York and New Jersey areas many people found themselves stuck at home without power, but unable to get to work because the NJ Transit lines were down. A combination of floods in areas housing key infrastructure and downed power lines caused NJ Transit to lose power for an extended period of time.

Since then, the organization has been working to upgrade its power infrastructure by establishing a microgrid. The new project involves building a microgrid and investing in supporting infrastructure including energy storage technology, renewable energy systems and distributed generation methods.

Understanding the role of energy storage in microgrids
​Investing in storage solutions like lithium ion batteries helps organizations support distribution in a variety of ways, including making it easier to rely on renewable energy resources and provide consistent power even when other generation sources aren't available. Batteries also stand out because they can be moved from one location to another. This combination of features is especially noteworthy when dealing with microgrids because their entire purpose is to improve grid reliability by segregating different parts of the infrastructure to make it easier to manage and repair.

Isolating different elements of the grid to meet specific operational requirements of the infrastructure at any time. The responsiveness and flexibility offered by energy storage can combine with the precision and control of microgrids to create incredible reliability benefits.

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