Microgrid Knowledge – The Renewable Grid: Challenging the Status Quo Part 1

Jim Bishop, vice president of advanced technology solutions at Ameresco, focuses on reliability and stability in the first of a two-part series.

The renewable grid landscape has grown more sophisticated with increasing levels of wind, solar and other clean generation coupled with battery energy storage. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there are now regions where renewable energy has grown to the extent that the instantaneous energy production meets or exceeds the regional energy needs for short periods of time.

The renewable grid is a concept that refers to the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass, into the existing electricity grid. The goal of the renewable grid is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy security and diversify the energy mix. However, as the renewable grid expands and displaces legacy generation, transmission and distribution, there are obstacles to overcome for successful deployment.

With growth comes challenges

As professionals in the clean energy sector, we understand that renewables present challenges even as they offer numerous promising solutions. The variable nature of renewable resources – such as solar and wind – creates an intermittent capacity that doesn’t always match up with loads or that doesn’t optimally utilize fixed infrastructure like distribution and transmission capacity, requiring additional resource planning. Battery energy storage comes into the picture to firm this otherwise intermittent power source.

Notably, distributed renewable generation and battery storage is not only different in the way it is fueled, but also in the way it interacts with the grid. Rather than a fleet of spinning generators, the renewable grid marries clean power and elastic storage resources to energy demand using high speed power electronics in the form of power inverters.

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