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Community energy microgrids (CMG) are for people, not utility companies. CMGs are about tapping into, distributing, and using 100% locally produced renewable energy with local labor and materials. Community microgrids can provide ample local and renewable power without connecting to the main grid.
MICROGRIDSLink title First, let’s define community microgrids (CMG). To get started, here is a review of the current status of 'microgrids':
" Microgrids are modern, small-scale versions of the centralized electricity system. They achieve specific local goals, such as reliability, carbon emission reduction, diversification of energy sources, and cost reduction, established by the community being served. Like the bulk power grid, smart microgrids generate, distribute, and regulate the flow of electricity to consumers, but do so locally. Smart microgrids are an ideal way to integrate renewable resources on the community level and allow for customer participation in the electricity enterprise."
Motorola’s Microgrid Definition: A microgrid is a localized grouping of electricity generation, energy storage, and loads that normally operates connected to a traditional centralized grid (macrogrid). This single point of common coupling with the macrogrid can be disconnected. The microgrid can then function autonomously.
Wikipedia’s microgrid definition: Microgrids offer a compelling alternative to traditional energy generation and distribution, utilizing smart grid technologies to enable integrated control of distributed power generation assets either in parallel to or “islanded” from the utility power grid.
These are alllegacy definitions: Like putting new technology over old cow paths.Italic text Our electrical and energy infrastructure was designed (mostly by accident) and put in place over 100 years ago. It is outdated at its core. The big problem is that the grid's assets are valued at over $3trillion and LOTs of people make LOTS of money off this grid - so why change? This model is based on a monopolistic, oligarchy style utility/government/industry no longer works within our post-industrial, networked, and highly empowered society. We need a new energy infrastructure. Like a home gardener who has discovered permaculture and all its wonders by nudging nature to work, we need a permaculture-based energy system. We need a community-based independent energy microgrid based on 100% renewables. Call it ‘energy permaculture’.
The mainstream microgrid industry is a large booming BIG business, dominated by energy giants. The USA has 74% of the global microgrid market. Why? most of these microgrids are in the industrial/commercial and Institutional/campus sectors and use diesel or natural gas-powered co-generation system for a majority of their electrical energy. This is a result of access to cheap natural gas and a desire to control their own energy pricing and reliability. Mainstream microgrids are massive: 100’s of megawatts. This is an inappropriate application of the word ‘micro’. There is also an emerging microgrid industry : smaller, local-based microgrids. So let’s get started on reviewing these new smaller microgrids. First, a few basic terminologies.
Mainstream Microgrid Acronyms + Terminology: • AC, DC = Alternating Current, Direct Current • CERTS = Consortium for Electrical Reliability • CHP = Combined Heat and Power • CMG = Community microgrids* • Co/Tri-gen = Cogeneration/Trigen (Heat/Cool + Electricity) • DER = Distributed Energy Resources • DPS = Distributed Power Systems • DUPS = Distributed Uninterruptable Power Supply • IEEE = Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers • PQR = Power Quality + Reliability • PV = Photovoltaics • RE = Renewable Energy • T+D = Transmission and Distribution • UEC = Uniform Electrical Code • UPS = Uninterruptable Power Supply • VSI = Voltage Source Inverters
Clarifications + CMG Approach:Italic text Most current microgrid discussions are about electricity only. A few add natural gas for heating (but mostly from co-gen), and very few talk about multiple, integrated energy sources. They talk about tying into the main grid and working with the utilities and governmental regulators. This is NOT the case for small, island type microgrids, which are built as stand-alone systems. For mainstream microgrids it’s usually from the ‘top-down’. All the discussions on CMGs will be from the ground up: from a local community’s individual citizenry platform and up. Some people call this an organic or grass roots approach. Top-down microgrids won’t work. Working from the ‘top-down’ is a non-starter. We’ve tried it for over 35 years, and what has it gotten us? More energy related disasters will occur within the next 12months - guaranteed. Whether it’s a soft or hard accident is immaterial. Our energy supply chain is at its maximum capacity with fragile weak points.
There are inherent inefficiencies in our grid system for which we are all paying and helping continue an outdated, monopolistic energy system.
Bottom line: We are only getting 20-30% of the electrical energy out of our electrical plugs, but paying for 100% of its generation! We will NOT be discussing this ‘top-down’ microgrid approach. There are many organizations pursuing this microgrid approach.
Instead, we need to work from a grass-roots level. We need to work from the bottom up. This is where CMG is positioned.
COMMUNITY MICROGRIDSLink title
Defintion of CMGs (Community MicroGrids)CMGs are stand-alone, small* interconnected energy grid based on 100% renewable supplies; that are transmitted and distributed only to local community residences and businesses.
• CMGs are connected to similar CMGs within adjacent communities. They are flexible, integrated and diverse. • CMGs are not tied to large utility or regional grids. They are stand-alone. • CMGs provide 6-sigma reliability and have safety + reliability as their primary objective. • CMGs are developed, owned and maintained 100% by local citizenry. • CMGs monitor and heal themselves. * The use of the word ‘small’ in this definition is just that.
The scale of CMGs should be on the order of 100′s of kilowatts not megawatts. With smart meters, smart controllers, and the upcoming energy internet; these CMG’s are easily interconnected to provide diverse, reliable and steady supply of locally produced 100% renewable energy. These energies can range from local biomass gasification (woodlands), geothermal (ground loops), solar thermal, solar PV, wind power, microhydro, etc. These CMGs can heal themselves by continually monitoring their own status and adjusting to variable loads, demands and potential faults. Yes, it is possible NOW. The technology and innovations are there, we just need to DO IT!
It doesn’t get any greener or more sustainable than this.
Call to Action Let’s create a community independent energy microgrid within YOUR community Let’s start with one house, one block. First one, then two, then many more. Look around you. There’s plenty of energy available right now. Current solar income (C2C principle) , gravity, geothermal, wind, biomass, etc. All energy sources are available to be used appropriately with smart, hi-tech controls + equalizers, etc.; enabling a community to use and distribute it’s own local renewable resources to provide it’s citizenry 100% of its energy needs. It won’t be easy. It’s a tall order. You can start today. Start by measuring your daily watts.
Where to start: Watts per person. We use 11,500+ watts/person (on average). A big part of the success for CMGs will be to reduce this energy demand profile. We need to get down around 3-5,000 w/p to make CMGs work.
LCE: LoCost Energy
This is not your typical lo-cost energy: like turning off lights, changing thermostats or taking cold showers :-) LCE is about reducing your energy footprint DRAMATICALLY – from 11,500 watts to 2,000 watts (see the TAB on this site ‘2KW Society’). It requires a large change in our human behavior and our expectations of having everything (30+ widgets) instant-on, on-demand, 24/7/365 over-the-top energy consumption.
LCE is mostly free (or very lo-cost) to do. But it’s painful to change habits. Here’s a way to get started:
1. Observe, measure, inform your daily energy use behavior + patterns 2. Learn about energy demand, load management, usage. 3. Invest and use LED lights, thermal curtains, lo-cost HVAC. 4. Install solar hot water WAY before solar PV 5. Learn to live by the sun.
This is about the demand side of the energy business. It is the energy that people want and need for their daily lives.
This is the place is to start with CMGs (community microgrids): on the demand side (not the supply side). It is much easier to invest in appropriate technologies to reduce the demand for energy, than to scurry around and develop additional energy supplies.
If there were 20 people consuming 11,500 w/p/d the total annual energy supplies needed would be a total of 84 MW hours per year [11500 X 20 X 365]. If these same 20 people instead consumed 2,000 w/p/d it would be 15 MW hours per year [2000 X 20 X 365].
That’s a difference of ~70 MW hours. At 12cents per KWH this would be a difference of $8.3 million for 20 people! That ain’t chicken feed!
Another way to look at this $8.3 million is that this is the equivalent of ‘avoided generation’ (supply of energy) needed to power up these 20 people. Or, that this is the amount of cash available for a community to invest in helping reduce its energy demand profile.
Getting started with LCE
So how to get started in reducing our average consumption by a whopping 82%? [11,500-2,000/11,500]?? It ain’t gonna be easy! We need to retrain ourselves. We need to take incremental steps. Perhaps in increments of 20, 40, 60% reduction steps.
One Step: Check out solar energy... and start living in sync with our ORIGINAL energy source.
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