What is HVAC?

Amid international disruptions to energy distribution systems and the growing burden of unpredictable weather, many taken-for-granted aspects of infrastructure are coming under greater scrutiny. In particular, the buildings that shelter us from this chaos are consuming more and more power as our reliance on their protection increases.

One of the main technologies that make buildings hospitable is air conditioning. AC belongs to the holy trinity of building comfort, Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Some governments have begun adopting increasingly strict regulations of these systems, limiting fuel types, and demanding higher efficiency. Electrical HVAC systems are one of the options touted to replace older nonrenewable fuel-based heating and cooling.

What is HVAC?

So, what is an HVAC system? Temperature control seems straightforward, but many factors go into designing these systems, and even more to consider when looking at improving their efficiency in real-world conditions.

Let’s take a look at each element of HVAC:

Heating

Raising the temperature in a building means using burned fuel, electricity, or heat pumps on-site to heat and distribute air directly or via heated water or steam. Heating elements carry different risks based on their potential to generate harmful gases.

Ventilation

The goal of ventilation varies slightly based on local climate and air pollution. Both air contaminants and humidity need to be filtered from the outside to effectively control indoor air quality. Indoor air circulation is also an important factor in regulating temperature.

Areas with drier, cleaner air can use well-placed windows or vents to create passive ventilation. It’s also possible to have some impact on heating and cooling through certain building designs.

Air Conditioning

AC units come in all shapes and sizes. They work best when the type of AC unit included is planned for in the building’s construction, as this impacts the placement and efficacy of the cold air distribution system.

As a function of being closely tied to the ventilation system, AC units also tend to serve as the main interception point for air filtering and dehumidification.

Types of HVAC Systems

There are several different types of systems that match different HVAC needs:

Traditional HVAC

The standard HVAC system found in most facilities and larger office buildings includes an internal heating unit and an outdoor unit that houses the refrigerating and dehumidifying units, as well as a fan to manipulate airflow and a heat pump to improve temperature regulation.

Hybrid heat split

Instead of designated heating and cooling units, hybrid systems use a heating system combined with a heat pump. These systems provide more energy-efficient cooling than those incorporating air conditioning units, but the total cooling capacity is lower than a full HVAC system.

Ductless heating/cooling

When it’s not cost-effective or realistic to install a full ventilation system, ductless heating and cooling systems are a good option to manage the temperature of specific rooms. They still use a heat pump and indoor air units connected to an outdoor AC unit, but each room is handled separately.

Packaged heating/cooling

Packaged HVAC units are just a compact version of other HVAC technologies. Either an AC, heat pump, or combination of AC and furnace are integrated as a single unit. This type is capable of temperature control for homes and small buildings, or larger buildings when multiple are used at the same site.

What makes HVAC so important?

HVAC is an important part of the solution to the ongoing climate crisis. However, it’s not enough to simply increase the number of buildings using HVAC. As more and more people rely on electricity as a lower-impact alternative to oil and gas, overstrained grids become a very real concern.

One solution is to find ways to improve energy efficiency. An HVAC energy management system allows building managers to increase oversight and monitor their system’s performance, letting them gain a better understanding of demand to plan around peak usage times and detect malfunctions that interrupt service or waste energy.

Another option is to improve building designs from the start by using the right materials and better structural planning to regulate temperature based on the local climate. Some updates can be made to existing buildings with insulation or altering the internal structure, but this is often more difficult and expensive than the alternatives.

The first step in minimizing the impact of HVAC systems on the environment and your overhead is to understand the holes in your building’s energy efficiency.

How does Galooli provide a solution for HVAC

The first step in optimizing your HVAC system’s energy efficiency is to get a firm understanding of your energy footprint. By knowing your consumption patterns and factoring in HVAC behavior, Galooli can help you minimize your energy bill and make the most out of existing systems.

Once you’ve fully understood your HVAC system’s energy usage, you’ll know exactly what solutions will best suit your energy needs. Whichever solution you end up using, continuing to actively monitor your energy patterns is an integral part of getting the most out of your HVAC system.

What is Energy Use Intensity?

Graph depicting an a general increase in energy usage over an unspecified time period
Graph depicting an a general increase in energy usage over an unspecified time period

What is energy use intensity? Countries all over the world are gearing up to meet the Paris Accord emissions reduction goals, and commercial buildings are an important part of that process. For instance, smart buildings have been shown to potentially reduce annual emissions by almost 10%.

With all of the energy invested in limiting emissions, it’s also important to make a note of the real bottom-line benefits of better power management. Emission concerns are leading governments to create tax incentives for investing in energy efficiency as well as allocating funds to support people making those changes.

But that’s not all. By being conscious of your energy use and improving efficiency, you inherently save money on excess demand that is otherwise wasted. So what exactly is EUI?

What is energy use intensity (EUI)?

EUI is a metric that describes a building’s energy efficiency based on the amount of space it takes up. To calculate EUI you simply take the annual energy consumed by a building in gigajoules (GJ) or British-thermal units (kBtu) over the area (m2 or ft2) of that building.

The only room for confusion comes from the two different ways to measure energy consumption, site energy and source energy.

Site energy takes the energy use reported by utility bills or advanced metering. It’s most commonly used when looking at EUI while designing buildings, as it reflects the realities of energy consumption that the average owner will face.

Source energy is calculated from the total energy used including all energy from producing and consuming assets, as well as the energy lost throughout the transportation process. This produces a much more accurate energy footprint that factors in the added intensity of different fuel sources based on type and distance to service. Buildings that plan to incorporate on-site renewables, batteries, and other supplementary energy systems should use this method in their calculations.

Some sites naturally have a higher EUI, like hospitals or data centers that run many high-intensity assets almost 24/7. Essentially, having more connected assets, greater energy demand per asset, and overall higher runtime are the main factors that increase EUI.

Why energy use intensity is so important

Understanding energy use intensity is an important part of maximizing the energy efficiency of new buildings and assessing existing sites. Knowing the EUI beforehand helps assess the overhead for electricity and if its drastically different from similar types of buildings it lets you know that something is wrong before you get too far along in your design.

Having a site energy use intensity benchmark for your particular type of building lets you identify and predict the utility costs of daily operations. If you’re relying solely on grid power and only use alternative energy sources as backups, this will tell you most of what you need to know.

On the other hand, if you use photovoltaic solar panels, batteries or generators to regularly supplement your power supply, you’ll need a more detailed assessment of your power needs.

However, the real strength of the EUI metric is having an effective baseline to track future improvements. Once you’ve fully understood where you start and have pushed EUI as far as possible, there are still more improvements to make to your electricity consumption.

Your local climate and related HVAC demand can have a big impact on the actual EUI you end up with. Furthermore, variations in daily use and physical factors can drive the intensity up even more.

So who should be the most worried about their EUI?

Facilities in most industries need to worry about energy costs at some point, but some have a higher energy demand than others: 

Healthcare facilities

An obvious choice, hospitals in particular run a lot of high-intensity equipment all the time. That equipment is especially important in emergencies, which means that when the backup power systems kick in they should be ready to handle that high load 

Banks

Perhaps surprising, but banks use a lot of energy. Similar to hospitals, they also have backup power, but primarily for security reasons instead. They also rely on data storage centers with lots of computer banks drawing power.

Furthermore, as digitalization marches onwards across the entire economy, banks rely more and more on touchscreen banking and other assets that increase their EUI. 

Educational complexes

There’s a growing trend of universities developing their own independent grids to support the classrooms and offices serving tens of thousands of students. This has improved the resiliency of campus electricity, but these methods compensate for a heavy EUI.  

Residential facilities

Finally, there are a variety of residential buildings that run up their EUI by virtue of there being many people living in them and running hundreds of appliances. Building managers for apartments, care facilities, hotels and any other large, dedicated living space should be aware of their EUI burden. 

Almost any kind of facility that houses a bunch of people or appliances is going to have a higher EUI, and with that comes an increasing need to account for and manage that demand. 

What does Galooli do for your EUI?

Once you know what kind of EUI you’re reporting, the next step is deciding what you’re going to do about it. There’s only so much you can do to improve the baseline energy usage.

If your facility was designed with its EUI in mind, you might think that’s the end of it. But once your infrastructure is optimized, there are still all kinds of day-to-day variables that can influence your actual energy consumption.

Galooli’s agnostic remote monitoring and management solution takes the guesswork out of your energy performance. Whatever systems support your building, we can track KPIs and set alerts that tell you when your assets are misaligned or in danger of breaking down.

What is a Smart Grid?

Power lines with a lightly cloud sky in the background and graph lines indicating power levels overlaying
Power lines with a lightly cloud sky in the background and graph lines indicating power levels overlaying

Nowadays, most of the world has access to a large-scale electricity grid, but many places haven’t been maintaining and upgrading their grid infrastructure.

Last year, the independent Texas power grid failed dramatically when the state experienced abnormally cold weather and then again faced a crisis during a record heat wave this summer. Both the extra strain from people huddling around their heaters and air conditioners, as well as poorly planned and out-of-date power plants, were crucial factors in this dramatic failure.

These events and many others show that, while electricity is a fundamental part of basic safety and security, securing its supply doesn’t necessarily get the respect and care it deserves.

As the consequences of this neglect come to a head, there is a greater demand for more reliable and modernized energy systems. Fortunately, smart grid technology has been waiting for an opportunity to shine.

So, what makes a grid smart?

What is a smart grid?

A smart grid is an automated electrical grid with communication and IT systems that can monitor power flows from every energy asset to each connected piece of equipment and can make real-time adjustments between generation and load.

There are a few key components to setting up and running smart grid infrastructure effectively. First, a smart grid requires smart metering sensors integrated into both the energy-producing and energy-consuming assets.

Along with smart meters, smart grid solutions also need remote monitoring solutions that allow for full control over energy-producing assets. This lets utility companies isolate malfunctions and reduce the burden on overloaded sites in situations that would otherwise create a widespread blackout,

Once the asset control, data collection, and transmission mechanisms are established, it’s time to implement smart energy management. By combining trend tracking, data analysis, and generally increased visibility, companies can help optimize smart grid energy and set parameters for the system.

All of these elements together facilitate a channel between providers and customers that enables greater control, efficiency, and responsiveness of the energy network.

Why are smart grids so important?

Energy costs are rising, shortages are becoming more common, and the world’s transition towards renewable, clean energy and technologies remains relatively stagnant. One of the most direct ways to jumpstart this process is to begin from the ground up with the electric grid. The importance of digitizing the grid and energy assets cannot be understated and can be broken down into a collection of primary benefits.

Improving reliability

The world’s growing population and increasing reliance on electricity mean that, despite advancements in the energy efficiency of new technology, there is a growing burden on our power supplies. To ensure our standard of living and profit margins exist for future generations, we must make the most out of our expanding power capacity by maximizing efficiency.

Harnessing renewables

In addition, climate change is creating a need for better resistance to extreme temperatures and weather. The unpredictability of the impacts is wreaking havoc in all sorts of ways, and it’s important to increase the resilience of both the customer and utility end of energy systems. Renewable resources have the potential to maintain or improve the availability of electricity while minimizing the environmental costs that threaten to spiral out of control.

Generating data

Making a grid more intelligent means getting access to an abundance of data. Galooli alone collects over 3 billion data points every day. Moreover, a truly smart grid will include some capacity for analysis that helps increase energy efficiency and identify problems before they trigger major malfunctions.

Managing complexity

Grids involve a wide array of machines and units, all relying on effective management of the energy distribution system. The more data is collected and analyzed, the more factors come under the control of that management. Smart grid solutions take that vast array of components and organize, prioritize, and simplify the process of managing those connections.

Reducing operational costs

Fostering greater control and understanding of the energy system naturally leads to reduced costs from all angles. The world has already invested at least 250 billion USD in its energy networks, and that number continues to grow. In order to get the most out of that investment, smart grids let users track energy expenses at peak times and adjust their own behavior accordingly, while utilities can reduce their maintenance costs with predictive analysis and fewer site visits.

Galooli’s role in smart grid management

In order to get the most out of your intelligent assets working with the grid, you need effective data collection, accessible KPIs, and the best analysis around. Galooli’s solution helps optimize your supplemental energy systems and accomplishes each of these goals with unprecedented excellence.

With broadly compatible agnostic integration and an abundance of possible configurations, Galooli’s software can serve as the link between you and your energy usage. Beyond grid monitoring, there’s battery tracking, generator performance analysis, and more, Galooli leads the way in making the most of your energy management.

What is a Network Generation

Telecommunications tower with equipment supporting multiple network generations
Telecommunications tower with equipment supporting multiple network generations

When you look at your phone next to the bar indicating signal strength, there is usually a handful of numbers and letters like 4G or LTE. If you have paid close attention, you might notice that you have better connectivity with LTE than you get with 3G.

Behind these symbols and codes is a complex web of technological history still shaping global telecommunications today. If you want to understand more about telecom systems, it’s essential to learn about network generations.

What is a network generation?

A network generation is a type of cellular network generally referred to by its number, starting with 1G and going all the way through 2G, 3G, and 4G to the most recent developed generation: 5G. They are referred to as generations because that is how they were institutionally defined.

As the developers responsible for cellular network technology, telecom giants primarily set specific standards for network capabilities. They used their knowledge of contemporary advancements not only to expand the potential range and power of their existing networks but also to define the scope of what the next generation of systems would be able to achieve.

Each network generation refers to the specifications and types of the technology standard, frequency, bandwidth, access system, and core network.

5 Facts About 5G Networks

Quick review: what are the main components of a network generation?

If you are well-versed in telecommunications technology, you can skip ahead, but if you want to learn more about network infrastructure, here is a brief look at what we are talking about when we use the term ‘network generations’:

Frequency

Frequency is simply the number of oscillations or vibrations in a second, measured in Hertz (Hz). It measures electrical signals as a baseline, then scanning and identifying frequencies can be used to transmit data by tracking either analog or digital signals.

Bandwidth

In the technical sense, bandwidth is a number that describes electrical signal transmission capacity. Digital bandwidth is measured in pulses and expressed in bits per second, nowadays offered by service providers as Mbps.

Transmitting alternating frequencies used in all wired analog, many wired digital, and most wireless communications uses ‘bandwidth’ to describe the difference between the highest and lowest frequencies, measured in Hz.

Multiple Access System

These systems are the framework for how networks handle specific bandwidths and multiplex, modulate, or manage them to organize user channels and facilitate communication. Each access system uses a different technique to modify the bandwidth and exploit the fundamental resources of the system.

  • Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA)
  • Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA)
  • Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)
  • Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM)
  • Beam Division Multiple Access (BDMA)

Each of these techniques reflects the targetable aspect of the network based on the technological capabilities at the time. Dividing various parts of the bandwidth and modifying the underlying technology improved each successive generation’s coverage, capacity, and efficiency.

Standardized Technology

As telecommunications has developed from the basic telegraph to globalized networks, many communication standards have been created, adapted, improved, or abandoned. Generally, several standards have been developed and adopted at roughly the same capacity in different countries around the world.

Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS), Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT), and the Total Access Communication System (TACS) were analog signal systems developed around 1980 in the US, Scandinavia, and Europe, respectively. As the first telecom services, they are collectively considered 1G.

2G came about in the 90s with the widespread adoption of transmission via wired digital connections as part of the Global System for Mobile communication or GSM.

The introduction of CDMA technology in the late 90s enabled greater signal density at the cost of multiple functions. This led to Wideband CDMA (WCDMA), which served as the foundation for 3G but has been chiefly phased out in favor of GSM.

From the early 2000s, Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) was pursued mainly by Sprint as a way to get ahead of the competition and achieve 4G levels of coverage and speed using the internet to cover gaps instead of new wired lines. In 2015, Sprint abandoned WiMAX in favor of the more compatible and later widely-adopted Long-Term Evolution (LTE) transmissions.

A notable upgrade from 3G onwards was the introduction of MIMO or Multiple Input Multiple Output. As the name implies, it involves processing and combining copies of a signal through multiple antennae to send and receive more robust transmissions.

The redundancy is beneficial for vital emergency communication and network stability even under load. As the world transitions toward 5G, this technology is increasingly crucial to supporting the growing capabilities of the latest network generations.

Now that we understand more about network generations let’s look at a more technical timeline of 1G to 5G standard development.

Network generation technologies simplified

Progression timeline of network generations and their advents
Source: Twitter

Getting lost in the endless reams of network technology acronyms involved in something as simple as making a phone call is very easy. We’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible while looking at how these standards have developed and what changed with their widespread adoption.

In the beginning…

The first generation of wireless technology – AMPS, NMT, and TACS – used analog signals in the frequency range of 800 to 900 MHz to carry data. These mobile networks used FDMA to increase their capacity, but the amount of data that could be transmitted was still minimal. The voice quality and reliability of calls on 1G devices were not very good and also suffered from poor battery life.

The second mobile generation transitioned to wireless digital support with the help of the innovation of TDMA and CDMA. At the same time, the adoption of GSM running on 900 MHz or 1800 MHz bandwidth opened up more operable space.

Applying these techniques to both the new GSM and the older AMPS networks increased the amount and quality of data transmitted, allowing for the development of SMS and MMS services. GSM also made possible internal roaming, conference calls, call holding, and service-based billing.

The rise of the WWW

With the growing popularity of the internet and the demonstrably expanded opportunities of 2G, the next step in telecommunications was web integration. Pressure to meet the International Mobile Telecommunications 2000 (IMT-2000) standard of 200 Kbps transmission speed led to several advancements. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful in producing a new standard, but they were able to upgrade older networks with improved audio and data capacity.

In addition to meeting the standardized requirements to be called 3G, updated 2G network architecture enabled support for many of the apps and features we enjoy on our phones today. Web browsing and email, as well as downloading, streaming, and sharing, were all established at this time.

This was also the point at which the types of devices branched out from phones to include advanced PDAs and more.

Two important technologies jumped from 3G to 4G: MIMO and OFDM. These two methods of frequency modification created a dramatic increase in the density and strength of signals possible within existing bandwidths. This paved the way for advances like HDTV, video conferencing, and cloud computing. Combined with increased security and overall optimization that reduced the cost of providing these services, 4G once again redefined cell service.

But there's no such thing as too fast

As the next level of advancement, 5G offers even faster data service and lower latency facilitated by increased connection density. 5G is still in the process of widespread deployment, but so far, it requires significantly higher site density and inter-device communication to meet its own network standards.

The proliferation of cell sites presents new challenges in keeping track of maintenance and managing energy demand. Still, 5G offers a wide array of efficiency and performance improvements that makes its adoption critical for growing data usage globally and increased reliance and mobile connectivity.

What's next?

As 5G sites are rolling out, service providers are already looking for better and cheaper ways to provide service. With the many experimental technologies being created and designed, there are still some ways to improve existing networks.

The next step in network generations is already in development. 6G is looking to use higher frequencies to deliver even faster and higher quality data transmission with 1000 times less latency. All of this is still speculative, but confidence in the potential for 6G is very high.

The digitalization and intelligent integration of network infrastructure allows for optimization toward more efficient and reliable operations. Companies like Galooli provide remote monitoring solutions that add extra value and oversight to all types of telecom sites.

What is Energy Digitalization?

Digitalization is the process by which ICT solutions permeate into the entire economy and daily life. This advent has brought reams of data, leaps forward in data analytics, and higher levels of interconnectivity between people, devices, and machines than ever before.

There is an enormous opportunity to transform society into a more digital, intuitive world, but as the population grows and technology innovates further, energy consumption is rising accordingly.

The world will consume approximately 580 million terajoules of energy in 2022, or about the equivalent of 13.9 billion tons of oil equivalents. While renewable energy is getting cheaper and investment is growing at a rapid pace, it still pales when compared to the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.

In order to help facilitate a more rapid transition and change to cleaner energies and optimize humankind’s current use, the energy sector needs to modernize.

Enter energy digitalization.

What is energy digitalization?

Source: International Energy Agency

There is a digital transformation in the energy industry taking place. As the industrial, commercial, and private sectors come to terms with the reality that how we source and use energy needs to change, digital technologies will lead the way in finding ways to be more efficient with their consumption.

Energy digitalization is the transformation of the energy sector and energy use in general from traditional manual and binary processes to intelligent remote controls, monitoring, and management.

These digital energy transformations will take static data like utility bills and turn them into actionable insights with that information to reduce energy costs and identify peak usage times to control energy network load. It can also help providers make better, data-centered business decisions and shift their business model according to these insights.

The key to energy digitalization is the introduction of communications equipment and capabilities to analog machinery. From remote monitoring to predictive maintenance and threshold alerts and even remotely controlling assets remotely from an office, these technologies have a wealth of potential.

For telecom and data center operators and service providers using these facilities, they need to determine where their energy pain points lie to stop wasteful energy spending. This includes energy assets operating improperly or when unneeded, wasted power, and which sites are polluting the most, among other energy KPIs.

Why is energy digitalization important?

The multiple benefits that energy digitalization provides to multiple sectors
Source: Gov.uk

Energy digitalization’s impact can be felt across nearly every sector of industry and society. Digital innovations in the energy sector could save over $80 billion annually up through 2040 from reduced downtime and outages, improved power network efficiency, and extended asset lifetime and warranty.

One of the largest areas that can be improved is buildings and their construction, which are responsible for nearly a third of global energy consumption and 15% of CO2 emissions. If the world wants to meet its carbon neutrality goals by 2050, every new building and one-fifth of every old building standing today would need to be “Net-Zero ready” by just 2030.

This is driven by increased energy access in developing countries and skyrocketing demand for air conditioning in warmer climates. The introduction of digital technologies has the potential to reduce this energy use by 10 percent over the next 16 years.

How can we digitalize our energy?

There are many steps and areas that need to be involved in the process of transforming the energy industry and energy use to meet our ambitious climate goals and start eliminating wasted energy. We’ve collected some of the primary aspects that will be pivotal in implementing smart energy infrastructure and use.

In order to bring global energy use into the smart and modern age, some stakeholders and sectors are critical in that process. Many more vectors require changes to be made to them, but these are the most significant of them.

Sectors

Energy Sourcing

One of the most critical changes for energy digitalization to become widespread is a seismic shift towards clean and renewable energy sources and away from fossil fuels. By their very nature, renewable energy sources are interlinked with digital energy technologies, without which they would not be able to be used.

For energy digitalization to occur, we need to shift as fast and wide as we can to phase out fossil fuel use wherever possible. Recently, renewable energy sources have become even cheaper than fossil fuels both in terms of upfront and long-term costs, making this goal more achievable than ever.

Energy Infrastructure

We need to introduce millions of units of digital energy and carbon-efficient technologies, including solar panels and other renewable infrastructure, and backup energy storage, to the global energy network. One of the most significant barriers to the effective harnessing of renewables is a lack of capacity and proper connections from generation sources to sufficient storage equipment to handle it.

Live monitoring of these assets is also critical to ensure you maximize their collection capabilities and take into account geographic and weather data to optimize their usage further.

This also includes having the necessary resources in place to properly monitor existing fossil fuel-based energy assets, ensuring they are used as little as possible and only when necessary. Though we can’t simply give up fossil fuels, we can make their use significantly more efficient or even use them to charge energy storage devices instead of directly powering sites and facilities.

Stakeholders

Consumers

Consumers are the core of any successful strategy to modernize the world’s energy use. Accurate information regarding tariffs and services will help them reduce costs while being carbon conscious. Energy digitalization will also bring the advent of private individuals entering the energy market, selling their surplus from private solar or wind infrastructure to the grid. They will also be able to track peak use times and adjust their energy purchasing to focus on cheaper times of the day.

Energy Providers

Energy providers will need to make sweeping changes to their systems and management with the advent of private individuals, entities, and independent energy projects like microgrids. They will need to introduce tools that can intelligently track and predict energy load ebbs and flows and automate a wide range of traditionally manual and time-consuming processes like periodic site checks.

The system will also need to be effectively reactive to the sudden power supply and demand spikes, which could create price fluctuations and energy network instability. Most of all, these processes and assets must be tracked with live performance monitoring and predictive alerts to prevent potential maintenance or power supply outages.

What is a Microgrid?

Small-scale microgrid including a generator and solar panel located at a coastal telecommunications base station
Small-scale microgrid including a generator and solar panel located at a coastal telecommunications base station

A microgrid is almost exactly what it sounds like; a smaller, scaled-down version of a typical central electric grid. Large national or municipal grids are used because centralizing distribution of most services is the most efficient possible form, so why does anyone bother with microgrids?

As the last couple of decades has shown, climate change is a growing threat to all forms of infrastructure. This is especially relevant to energy grids, as higher temperatures and increasingly frequent storms put more and more strain on these networks.

The United States saw 20 natural disasters that caused over one billion dollars in damages in 2021 alone. With the scaling challenges of climate change looming, taking control of your grid has become more important than ever.

First, let’s discuss what exactly is a microgrid more in-depth, and how they work.

What is a Microgrid?

Source: MicrogridKnowledge

Microgrids are a form of an energy system where a group of buildings or a neighborhood develops and implements its own self-contained network of power. A microgrid draws power from utilities just like the central grid but has supplementary energy production and storage that augments its daily functions. The specific configuration and resources of any microgrid are determined by the needs of the facilities relying on it.

This self-contained network of energy assets can operate invisibly alongside the main grid and then seamlessly transition into a fully independent energy system. To accomplish this, microgrids incorporate an active, intelligent control module that helps compensate for vulnerabilities and improves overall performance. 

Moreover, to effectively manage and keep these energy assets working at peak capacity, remote monitoring solutions can provide accessible visibility and insight into their performance. By augmenting the control functions of a microgrid with enhanced oversight operators can minimize risks and effectively maintain these independent energy networks.

Why go through the hassle of setting up a microgrid?

The main factors to consider when thinking about developing your own microgrid are site security and the reliability of the centralized grid network. Especially in regions where grid access is inconsistent, or fuel theft and vandalism are rampant, microgrids can provide the energy stability needed while keeping workers and contractors safe.

Safety features are the weakness of any centralized system because it takes the responsibility out of the hands of the people relying on that system and creates barriers to dealing with vulnerabilities. Microgrids resolve these accessibility issues and can also integrate extra security features because of the greater degree of focus.

Microgrids can also:

  • Collect data – A microgrid tracks energy use patterns to increase overall system efficiency and reduce energy costs by actively managing unused equipment, rooms, or even buildings.
  • Improve sustainability – With the increased connectivity comes the ability to enhance the integration of renewable energy with the microgrid to maximize a network’s sustainability and reduce its carbon footprint.
  • Optimize maintenance – With advanced prediction and malfunction reporting capabilities that reduce the need for in-person oversight, microgrids can decrease response times and minimize the impact of any emergency.
  • Increase efficiency – Generating the electricity for a microgrid from assets that are closer to customers means that less of power is lost in transit. In addition, the enhanced control over energy assets lets microgrids plan their load balance more effectively.

The increased accessibility also enables extra responsiveness and flexibility with demands that otherwise overwhelm centralized electric utilities. In municipalities with inadequate facilities, spikes in demand can regularly knock out the power supply.

Even areas with fully functioning grids do not bother to have the capacity for exceptional spikes, leaving their customers without power. A microgrid is able to address the local energy situation and compensate for gaps without wasting resources and building extra energy capacity.

Most importantly, microgrids provide facilities and organizations autonomy from traditional energy purchasing, and even in some cases sell it if enough excess energy is generated. If there is a reasonable concern about any of these factors, a microgrid could be the solution.

Who is using microgrids?

Examples of different ways microgrids can be organized and the power sources they use
Source: NordicEnergy

Microgrids are historically popular grid formations in a variety of different settings and scales.

The primary limiting factors to more widespread microgrid use are:

a). A large enough energy requirement to justify the investment

b). An incentive to take control of their energy supply

This has limited the application of microgrids for the most part to large communities with security concerns like military bases and institution complexes, but they have seen use in the following:

Hospitals

Medical care is always in high demand, with many critical services that people literally depend on to live. Furthermore, modern developments in medicine include a wide array of electronic equipment, making medical facilities require more power than the average building. This makes microgrids extremely useful as an extra source of electricity as well as insurance against local power failures causing irreparable harm.

Smart communities and buildings

In the face of increasingly frequent extreme weather and the effects of climate change, many communities in North America are choosing to invest in securing their energy supply. These microgrids are concentrated on supplying power to essential services such as firefighters and police departments. Supported facilities also serve as shelters during particularly dangerous weather events.

Government and corporate campuses

Some governments pushing for microgrids lead the way by installing backup systems in their capitals. Albany, New York is supporting its governing complex almost entirely through its own microgrid. This way, the government can preserve its bureaucratic functions in the face of all kinds of challenges. This also provides increased durability in the case of natural disasters or political unrest that damages critical infrastructure like the grid.

Utilities

While seemingly in direct competition, utilities are discovering ways that they can use microgrids to satisfy their customers while retaining control. By investing in microgrid technology, utility companies are able to offer customizable solutions that lower the cost of producing and using energy.

Advances in monitoring and management technology have made the centralized aspect of microgrids more accessible than ever. It has become possible to create a microgrid network out of almost any collection of buildings and energy assets.

The full range of applications for microgrid technology has only just begun.

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