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How Microgrids Provide Resilience for Critical Defence Infrastructure

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The defence sector, as well as the manufacturers that supply them, have critical energy management needs that make a smart microgrid an ideal solution. The ‘always on’ nature of security sites and the need for effective power resilience, completely independent from grid supply if required, is a primary driver of take-up. However, improved sustainability and reduced energy costs are just some of the further benefits of a microgrid solution. 

Building a Microgrid 

A smart microgrid typically incorporates on-site generation and storage with intelligent control software to dynamically control energy use on a site. Increasingly, a battery energy storage system (BESS) is used as the lynchpin, with the integrated software managing and monitoring power usage and generation in real-time, making intelligent decisions on how power is sourced and used. As microgrids typically retain their connection to the wider distribution network, power can be sourced from, or fed back to, the grid as and when required. However, it is typically more cost-effective to utilise power that is generated on-site, such as via solar panels or wind turbines. During periods when generation is high, excess power can be stored using a BESS for later use instead of exported at low value. 

Whether using on-site generation or not, microgrids typically represent a significant improvement in energy-related carbon emissions through more efficient and productive use of your site’s energy. Ministry of Defence sites and defence contractors alike are now facing a major analysis and overhaul of their sustainability efforts. Announced in March of this year, the MoD Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach will require, amongst other targets, the MoD to reduce the emissions of its built estate by at least 30% by just 2025. Suppliers will also be impacted, as a major part of their ‘Epoch 1’ planning between 2021 and 2025 is to identify ways to work with suppliers to reduce emissions throughout the supply chain. It also specifies that one way of doing this will be to introduce contract conditions that require a certain level of sustainability performance or improvement from suppliers. 

RESILIENT MICROGRIDS 

For defence infrastructure, the most important reason to adopt a microgrid is one of resilience, both power and operational. Properly designed and implemented, microgrids have the ability to run entirely independently of grid supply. By switching into what is known as island mode, microgrids use on-site generation, storage and power management software to allow an entire site to continue to run indefinitely, even if main grid supply is lost.

The huge power demand of some technologies in the defence sector can also be problematic when it comes to managing your grid supply. This has become a growing issue not just in defence but across a wide range of sectors as the switch from combustion engines to electric vehicles drives the need for rapid charging infrastructure to be installed.

When implementing new technology that brings with it a significant increase in your power demand from the grid, you run the risk of the proposal being turned down by your distribution network operator (DNO) over grid constraint concerns. If your local network is already strained, additional demand, or generation, runs the risk of overloading infrastructure and causing localised disruption. A microgrid, with its capability to separate on-site infrastructure from your grid connection and run it using either on-site generated or stored energy, can solve this issue.

No matter how a microgrid is implemented and what components it includes, an intelligent control system is required to ensure it operates efficiently and as intended. These smart control systems automatically monitor, predict, and control power flows, making real-time decisions on when to generate, store or use available energy. This flexibility and intelligent use of energy means that a microgrid can unlock better resilience, efficiency and cost savings than the sum of its parts.

This aspect of microgrids makes them particularly complex, and this complexity can make implementing a project a daunting prospect. Given their high level of interconnectivity, a single point of failure on your microgrid risks impacting your entire power infrastructure. Fortunately, digital modelling and simulation services increasingly allow a microgrid to be proven as a concept before any work is undertaken. By creating a digital twin of your site and the proposed microgrid system in a virtual space, the project can be tested across a huge range of variables, predicting and resolving even very rare instances where internal or external factors could disrupt its operation. This means that even the most complex of microgrid projects can be financed and commissioned with the peace of mind that your chosen solution will operate as intended in all conditions.

Find out more about how Powerstar can help to implement site-wide power resilience and energy independence with a microgrid

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