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Solving Energy Challenges Through Innovative Microgrids






Increased electrification, demand for better sustainability and growing concerns over grid constraints and access to new grid connection works can make implementing new energy infrastructure increasingly challenging. Previously, the biggest concern when implementing a new technology that brought with it a significant increase in demand was exceeding a site’s agreed supply capacity, which brought with it significant financial penalties. At worst, it may require a very costly new grid connection. 

All that has become largely academic in the face of a growing crisis for the UK energy sector, particular for those looking to implement new renewable generation or battery storage projects. There is now over 200GW of energy projects awaiting connection works, enough to power all the homes in the UK six times over. Even if a site was able to fund new grid connection works to allow a major new project to be completed and supplied sufficiently, they could face a very lengthy wait period. 

Instead, many businesses are looking to innovation to unlock these new infrastructure projects. Smart microgrids are rapidly growing in popularity in the UK, small scale power grids that typically can operate both connected to the grid or independently. 

Here are three examples of how a smart microgrid can unlock a tricky energy infrastructure challenge, carefully balancing existing and new technologies on a site to deliver a robust solution. 


Data Centres 

Data centres bring with them not just huge power demand for the servers themselves, but also due to the need for both emergency and longer-term backup power to protect against the loss of data. The sector is also facing pressure from customers to rapidly decarbonise, meaning that new technologies that help to improve sustainability while bolstering resilience can be key.  

A microgrid built around a multi-functional battery energy storage system (BESS) and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can be one way to achieve this more efficiently, with the BESS not only providing emergency power for the site but interfacing with long-term backup, such as diesel generators or solid oxide fuel cells, giving enough time for the backup to get up and running without disruption. A BESS is also able to support existing infrastructure on the site, for example storing wind or solar energy generated on site or conditioning incoming voltages that will be supplied to sensitive equipment through integrated Voltage Optimisation. 


Railway Stations 

The electrification of the UK’s rail networks will see a significant increase in demand at many train stations. In some cases, the only way to efficiently charge trains without delaying their onwards journey is through fast charging rails installed along station platforms. While these are effective at keeping electric trains moving, they also bring with them enormous power demand. 

With train stations located across the UK, many are in areas with constrained local energy networks, meaning that this additional energy demand simply can’t be met through their grid connection. A microgrid can solve this issue using on-site generation, typically installed on land already owned by the trainline. A battery storage system is then used to store energy generated by on-site solar or wind, before making it readily available to charging rails when a train arrives at the station. 


Distribution Centres 

A rapidly growing issue for logistics and distribution centres is how they can integrate rapid charging for commercial vehicles without disrupting their site or grid connection. Rapid chargers for larger vehicles bring with them huge additional load, particularly those able to charge vehicles quickly enough to get them back out on the road as quickly as is typically needed. 

A similar issue as that posed by rapid charging rails at train stations, a microgrid can also support a distribution centre in a similar way. The size of distribution centres typically means large amounts of roof space, and many have already invested in rooftop solar to reduce energy costs and improve sustainability.

A battery energy storage system and microgrid controls can unlock rapid EV charging by buffering the energy that they charge from, delivering it from the battery rather than risking exceeding the site’s agreed supply capacity or their being insufficient capacity available from the grid. This allows vehicles to rapidly charge and depart on further delivers more quickly, while also improving the sustainability of a site. 

Find out more about the innovative ways that Powerstar solves customer challenges using microgrids here


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