Even today, many regions around the world are disadvantaged by having to rely on a defective or even non-existent power supply grid. This is particularly true of some remote rural areas. So to facilitate access to energy, local-scale power generating and consumption systems called microgrids are gradually being introduced. But this is not the only area of application for microgrids, which are also becoming more commonplace in industrial and residential environments to offer a cheaper, more reliable alternative to centralized power supply grids.
A microgrid is an energy supply network built around local power and heat generation facilities. It is designed to operate autonomously or in synchronization with a national grid within a clearly defined area. Imagine a paradise island alone in a vast ocean. A dream come true? Perhaps, but without electricity, the dream could quickly become a nightmare. For isolated islands to develop a secure economy, and for remote areas with no access to the mains power grid to receive the benefits of reliable energy, it is essential to develop local mini-grids capable of generating and distributing electricity. The same solution provides the additional opportunity to benefit from clean, renewable energy sources.
A microgrid is typically made up of:
- Renewable energy sources (solar, wind or biomass)
- Fossil fuel energy sources to ensure grid stability
- Energy storage solutions (batteries, hydrogen storage, mechanical storage, etc.)
- A low-voltage supply grid regulated by a smart control system
Microgrids have become properly competitive as a result of technological progress and falling prices of certain key components, including photovoltaic panels, batteries and control systems.
Microgrids tailored to the needs of island communities for decentralized, reliable and local energy
Microgrids incorporating local generation of energy from renewable sources and energy storage technologies are enabling island-based industrial companies to limit the effects of grid outages (loss of competitiveness and inability to accurately forecast costs).
In French Polynesia, ENGIE subsidiary company EDT (Électricité de Tahiti) has rolled out a hybrid energy solution for the entire island, which involves the use of solar panels, batteries and diesel generators to provide up to 70% of the island's energy demand in the form of green energy, at the same time as reducing the cost of supply for local residents.
Microgrids to bring electricity to remote rural areas
Even today, 17% of people around the world still live with no access to electricity. Thanks to microgrids, it is now possible to implement solutions that enable the electrification of remote villages through the use of solar photovoltaic systems, storage batteries and generators.
The solutions offered by ENGIE include PowerCorner, which involves the installation of a photovoltaic-powered microgrid. The package includes solar panels, generators and lithium batteries. A pilot version currently on test in Tanzania is already bringing locally generated energy to remote villages and homes.
But these smart microgrids can also provide an efficient alternative energy solution for industrial facilities and residential self-consumption applications.
Energy self-sufficiency for companies and residents
- Microgrids for industry and commerce
In the same way as for other applications, microgrids can also enable large-scale industrial and commercial complexes to be self-sufficient in electrical and heat energy. The value added from the customer's point of view includes lower prices, a reliable energy supply and an eco-friendly generation and supply installation.
In Toulouse, the Group has installed and commissioned its Smart ZAE, the first French microgrid developed to serve an entire business park. This grid generates green energy from multiple synchronized sources, and uses chemical and mechanical storage technologies within a system that is stable, financially optimized and synchronized with the national grid using a control and management system developed by our colleagues at INEO SCLE SFE. The result is cheaper energy and more effective control of peaks in consumption.
ENGIE subsidiary La Compagnie du Vent has officially opened a smart solar photovoltaic generating plant at Rivesaltes in the Pyrénées-Orientales region of France. The 50,000 or so photovoltaic panels installed in this industrial park generate power that is stored in lithium-ion batteries. The facility enables the generation of energy equivalent to the annual power consumption of 7,000 people. It also powers an electric vehicle used to carry personnel.
- Residential generation of renewable energy for self-consumption
Private individuals can opt for cleaner, cheaper energy by installing solar panels on the roofs of their homes or by being connected to a local solar power grid. Residents can manage their consumption more effectively using either a storage solution or even a combined heat and power generating system. They are also free to sell surplus energy back to the mains grid at the feed-in tariff.
In Australia, ENGIE subsidiary Simply Energy has been offering its residential customers an energy offer that combines self-consumption (via roof installations of photovoltaic panels) and storage (Tesla PowerWall batteries) since 2016.