Schneider Electric, Mainspring Team Up on Fuel-Flexible Microgrid

April 08, 2024 by Mike Falter

Schneider Electric is partnering with Mainspring to develop a hybrid-fuel microgrid solution based on Mainspring’s linear generator technology and Schneider’s EcoStruxure Microgrid Flex platform.

Extreme weather events, combined with an aging and strained grid, have forced companies to invest in local power generation, or microgrids, to improve their operations' energy resiliency, meet sustainability goals, and reduce their reliance on carbon-sourced energy.

Schneider Electric and Mainspring Energy have partnered to deploy a novel flex-fuel local power generation solution using Schneider’s EcoStruxure Microgrid Flex platform and Mainspring linear generators.


Mainspring linear generators

Mainspring linear generators. Image used courtesy of Mainspring


The joint project between Schneider and Mainspring will offer industrial and commercial customers a microgrid solution that is less dependent on fossil fuels and help ensure reliable access to the energy they need. 


Microgrids for Sustainability and Reliability 

According to Schneider, healthcare and data centers are under pressure to reduce energy costs, improve the reliability of their operations, and lower their carbon footprint. Schneider’s EcoStruxure Microgrid Flex platform is designed to help customers meet the joint priorities of sustainability and energy resilience by offering a comprehensive platform for managing microgrid power generation from renewable and other energy sources to supplement the grid.  

Using validated architectures and an extensive distributed energy resource library, EcoStruxure Microgrid Flex is designed to deploy faster than traditional microgrid platforms, with deployments in months rather than years.  

The highly configurable platform has a base package with an energy control center, battery energy storage system, and software to manage system operations. The platform can simultaneously manage multiple local power sources (solar, wind, generator) operating in parallel with or separate from the grid, providing customers with flexibility and reliability for their energy needs.  


Clean, local power generation from microgrids. 

Clean, local power generation from microgrids. Image used courtesy of Schneider Electric


From a sustainability perspective, using renewables as the energy source for a microgrid allows operators to manage their overall carbon-sourced energy consumption better and help meet the sustainability goals demanded by customers, regulators, and other stakeholders.      


Linear Generator Technology

With a novel fuel-flexible solution accommodating low- and zero-carbon fuels, Mainspring’s linear generators can be incorporated into the EcoStruxure Microgrid Flex platform, offering customers a clean, on-demand energy source for their microgrids. 

As opposed to rotating generators, Mainspring’s linear generator uses straight-line motion to generate electricity. Compression of a gas mixture (air and fuel) in the reaction chamber at the generator’s center induces a low-temperature reaction. The reaction force pushes magnets, connected to oscillators on air bearings (no oil), through copper coils on each side of the generator, producing electricity. Outer springs in the generator compress to capture mechanical energy from each combustion cycle to reset the oscillators/magnets and provide the compressive force for the next cycle.


Mainspring linear generators power microgrids.

Mainspring linear generators power microgrids. Image used courtesy of Mainspring


According to Mainspring, the low-temperature reaction in the generators occurs uniformly and without a flame, meaning there are near zero emissions of nitrous oxide. High mechanical expansion during each cycle maximizes the generator’s efficiency to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, fuel flexibility is enabled through software-controlled, cycle-to-cycle variation of compression levels in the reaction chamber.   


The Future of Local Power Generation?

When combined with renewable power generation and battery energy storage, Mainspring’s flex-fuel linear generator offers customers an extra layer of redundancy for access to local and on-demand clean power. 

As carbon-free local power generation technologies mature, expect to see more and larger microgrids capable of delivering cost-competitive power for commercial and industrial operations, reducing their reliance on the grid.