The Internet of Things (IoT) is allowing organizations to cost-effectively implement smart grids, also known as microgrids. Through IoT-based energy technologies, companies could revolutionize the distribution of electricity around the world.
Microgrids create smaller groups from the larger electrical utility grid, which provides greater control to organizations on how they use their energy supply. Through this ability to disconnect and operate on the grid or in island mode, organizations can make smarter use of their power.
Islanding refers to the ability of microgrid owners to improve resiliency when the grid is not supplying enough power. Microgrid owners are able to produce their own power when needed.
According to Justin Brant, a senior associate with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), “the biggest key is just in the area of resiliency, and that [microgrids] can provide the opportunity to island from the grid…When the grid may be down, you can still provide basic services.”
Benefits of a Microgrid
An IoT-based microgrid gives organizations power—both literally and figuratively. With the installation of an IoT-based microgrid, owners are able to improve the efficiency of their energy consumption. In additional to giving owners the ability to generate their own energy, microgrids also reduce dependency on utilities by helping to reduce costs and avoid peak usage charges. The technology even has the ability to produce revenue should the microgrid produce a surplus of power, which could be sold to a utility.
Microgrids may be helpful for organizations, but many utilities do not view them in a positive light. An increase in IoT-based microgrids could possibly mean a revenue loss. Furthermore, an increase in microgrids will require infrastructure upgrades. Because microgrids both use and generate energy, utilities will need to make sure that they are able to handle the bidirectional movement of power.
However, as microgrids continue to grow, opposition from utilities is decreasing, and they are looking into creating a new revenue stream. They are taking this opportunity to become partners with microgrid owners and offer fee-based services, such as microgrid feasibility studies and designs.
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One of the biggest frontiers in electrical engineering today is the development and implementation of smart grid technology. Fueled by the global demand for greener technologies and alternative fuels, environmentally-friendly smart grid technology can stimulate stagnated economies. It also has the potential to change the way power is delivered to electricity consumers around the world.
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Castagna, Rich. (16 January 2020). Microgrids Deliver Resiliency, Security and Savings. IoT World Today.