Enabling the future with microgrids
Posted on March 18, 2019 by Lucie Maluck, Images by mtu
Microgrids combine the advantages of renewable energies with the stability of conventional power generation systems.
Microgrids will figure strongly in our energy future. They combine the advantages of cheap, renewable energies with the stability of conventional power generation systems such as co-generation modules and diesel gensets. Their unique capability is to provide a reliable source of on-site power in locations – be they towns, remote areas, or industrial sites – that either have no access to or do not want to solely rely on the public power grid. mtu recently forged a partnership with Berlin-based start-up Qinous and is now providing turnkey microgrids complete with battery and control system.
As the potential for using renewable energy grows, so does the challenge of storing the surplus energy that photovoltaic cells and wind turbines produce in order to use it as and when required. Another challenge is finding ways of balancing out the weather-induced fluctuations that renewable energies involve. Microgrids meet both these challenges by smartly integrating different sources of electric power using batteries and an energy management system. All elements are connected within the microgrid and the intelligent energy management system ensures that energy is optimally harnessed.
Microgrid demonstrator in Friedrichshafen
Microgrids can be used as completely autonomous entities for generating on-site power at remote locations that do not have any access at all to a public power grid – a mine operation, for example, or an island community. They can also be deployed for parallel power generation, meaning that they either deliver eco-friendly on-site power to an industrial enterprise or local community, or feed the power they generate into the public grid. The brain center of the microgrid is its control system. This is a smart energy management system which calculates which sources of energy should be harnessed and when for delivering directly to the consumer or storing in the battery. That depends on the customer's current preference –- whether he wishes to generate power cheaply, produce green power using renewable energies, or simply optimize power consumption.
mtu battery bank
Another key component of mtu microgrids is its mtu EnergyPack – the battery bank that it designed and built in-house. The battery bank comprises 154 modules with 3,388 lithium-ion cells. These can store a total of almost 1,000 kWh – almost 14 times the capacity of a Model X Tesla. The mtu batteries deliver almost 2,000 kW and boast a capacity of 1,095 ampere hours. A transformer modifies the output voltage according to the local specifications. The microgrid is delivered ready to operate and only needs to be plugged in.
Renewable energy sources
mtu will soon be able to supply microgrids that come equipped with renewable energy modules. “We can either integrate existing modules or deliver turnkey systems that come complete with photovoltaic cells or wind turbines,” said Friedrich Triftshäußer who is responsible for coordinating microgrid activities at mtu. mtu is to engage in strategic partnerships to accomplish this.
Tailoring microgrids to customer needs
mtu is currently setting up a demonstrator microgrid at its Friedrichshafen site. This system will be able to simulate the customer's own microgrid set-up so that the right concept can be tailored to his needs. As a solutions provider, mtu provides the customer with comprehensive end-to-end support – all the way from initial enquiry and system simulation to final commissioning. For Andreas Schell, CEO of mtu parent company Rolls-Royce Power Systems, microgrids are a milestone development that will secure the company's future: “They attest to our newly-won status as a genuine solutions provider – our business is not just to deliver individual components but to conceptualize the overall solution that solves the specific problem of the customer.”