Say Goodbye to Outages: How Solar Plus Storage is Fueling the Microgrid Revolution
Solar plus energy storage microgrids with advanced controls can supplement the current energy grid cost-effectively.
The climate crisis has given rise to many innovations and, as one example, the road to a fully electrified America is progressing. Specifically, transportation electrification is well underway, with more than three million electric vehicles on the road today. Advancements will continue with the Biden Administration’s goal to have 50 percent of all new vehicle sales be electric by 2030.
Solar plus battery storage. Image used courtesy of Adobe Stock
However, as energy providers are well aware, the success of the government’s Electric Vehicle (EV) Acceleration Challenge hinges not just on ramping up production and installing more charging stations but also on utility strategies that allow for energy to be delivered into the current grid structure – especially neighborhoods and substations to accommodate EV expansion.
Current utility-based energy distribution resources are not likely to be able to keep up with EVs’ increasing popularity, especially as demands on the power grid become strained due to increasingly erratic and impactful climate conditions and load increases coming from “electrify everything” policies. These policies will create new loads such as Heat Pump HVAC, Heat Pump Water Heathers, Induction Stoves, and Electric pool pumps and heaters.
In addition, the needed EV charging infrastructure is further challenged by the rates required to cover utility charges necessary to meet costs, limiting economic viability. While demand charge holidays, sliding scales, and time-variable rates are all viable cost-control options, system peak needs are most effectively addressed with the production and storage of more energy as close to these new loads as possible.
Solar Plus Energy Storage Microgrids
The good news is that energy production with distributed storage solutions is available in the form of solar plus energy storage microgrids.
Solar field with battery storage. Image used courtesy of Adobe Stock
Solar plus energy storage microgrids with advanced controls can supplement the current energy grid and are more cost-effective for utility companies as compared to increasing capacity using new and larger transformers, which are impacted by factory delays, sourcing of limited materials, a decrease in manufacturing jobs, and a deficit in engineers needed to build them.
Microgrids are a turnkey energy solution for homeowners with EVs, making integrating with utilities even more seamless. Solar plus energy storage microgrids allow homeowners to pay for electricity through their utility company at no additional cost while combining rooftop solar, scalable battery storage, and advanced microgrid controls. This integrated system provides a marketing advantage for homebuilders, seamless and no upfront cost for homebuyers, and transformative energy sources for utilities.
In an impending weather event, vehicle owners, including those with EVs, tend to fuel their cars in preparation, whether with gasoline or electric energy. However, after a storm has passed, EV owners may be challenged to charge their vehicles if the power grid is down. With solar plus energy storage microgrids, a plentiful supply of distributed energy would support EV owners before, during, and after climate events.
Solar plus energy storage microgrids offer increased resiliency as they are highly resistant to impacts from climate events, cyber-attacks, and other occurrences because damage to one microgrid makes no difference to the overall network. If an individual microgrid is damaged, the larger network can self-restore and continue providing a steady power supply.
The solution has been tested at Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) in New Mexico through its Kirtland Resiliency Project. This 52,000-acre location serves as a national security complex and a home base for government continuity with 108 mission partners under five major Air Force commands, the Departments of the Air Force and Energy, and elements of the U.S. Space Force. Since installing the microgrid in 2019, power surety has supported KAFB’s mission by providing a seamless, integrated, uninterrupted power supply to the base.
Residential Microgrid Community Resilience
BlockEnergy partnered with the United States’ biggest homebuilder, Lennar, and the Metro Development Group to develop Medley at Southshore Bay in Tampa, a 37-home residential community. The homes have 300 kW of rooftop solar, 350 kW of gas generation, and 400 kW of bi-directional grid-tie, serving as a point of common coupling for all the microgrid resources with the grid.
Working with Tampa Electric (TECO), who owns and operates the BlockEnergy system, the homes are EV-charging capable and proven reliable, even during storms. While Hurricane Ian caused 1.1 million power outages across the Tampa Bay area for multiple days, Medley at Southshore never lost power.
As the nation sprints toward an electrified future, basic infrastructure challenges associated with a rapidly growing EV market must be overcome, beginning with an increased supply of reliable and resilient electricity. Solar plus energy storage microgrids are a proven solution that addresses the needs of utilities, EV owners, and stakeholders.
This article was co-authored by Bobbi Dillow-Walsh and Gary Oppedahl of BlockEnergy.