Siemens is pushing into microgrid development with news of the launch of a new microgrid test bed at its New Jersey R&D facility. The Siemens Advanced Microgrid Research and Demonstration Lab will work to integrate more traditional power generation, storage, and management solutions with Siemen’s core solutions in the building automation and cloud platform space.
Microgrids must adapt and evolve to fit the needs of the environment, whether that be different loads, multiple power generation technologies, a wide range of energy storage needs, or frequent disconnects. This new ‘living lab’ will actively explore the integration of a wide range of these traditional microgrid components with the building itself. In many ways, the move mirrors the work being done in the grid services space to balance the grid, adjusting the usage of individual customers or units within the grid to maintain balance.
“The microgrid market has been growing quickly and we have the opportunity to test how each component of these systems work as a whole,” said Xiaofan Wu, Princeton Island Grid Project Manager, Siemens Corporate Technology. “The beauty of our R&D work in Princeton is that we have the power to investigate and validate highly innovative technologies continuously in a real environment, resulting in a clear blueprint for a more efficient and flexible microgrid system that can be replicated all over the world.”
Microgrids are know first and foremost by their ability to ‘island’ themselves from the grid. Islanding is typically done during a grid outage, but can happen for any number of reasons. When disconnected, microgrids traditionally work to manage the flow of electricity to maximize uptime and resilience through the creative utilization of on site energy generation and storage. While the foundation of Siemens’ new living lab is still a massive solar installation over the parking lot, it breaks into uncharted territory with the move beyond managing generation and storage into the systems within the building itself.
The foundation of Siemens’ new microgrid is a massive solar installation over the parking lot at Siemens’ Princeton facility. Right off the line, the new solar installation will provide 60% of the power required by the facility, but the team has a goal over the next three years of leveraging a suite of new technologies to ultimately power 80% of the facility with the array.
Perhaps the single biggest lever to maximize the utility of locally generated and grid power is the nearly 1 MWh energy storage system for the facility. When fully charged, the battery can power the facility for 2 or 3 hours without any additional power. When combined with the power generated by the solar array, that figure can be extended even further, especially during the day when the building is occupied and the sun is shining. Siemens is especially excited about the integration of the building management system, as it packs the potential to throttle the energy consumed by the building down in the event of a grid outage, extending the amount of time the building can run off the battery even further.
To accomplish this, Siemens is using a digital twin simulation to emulate the energy management system of the building in order to more accurately calculate the impacts of any changes. For instance, to understand the impact of a lighting system upgrade or a new HVAC system, Siemens could simply model the change in the digital twin before pulling the trigger on an upgrade.
Energy consumption modeling isn’t new per se, but the ability to understand not just the numbers behind an upgrade, but also the impact on the rest of the localized microgrid, has the potential to unlock an entirely new set of implications for any upgrade. As Siemens runs scenarios through the digital twin followed by actual upgrades, they can further tune and improve the digital twin for improved accuracy and even more savings.
“Microgrids continue to become an integral part of our modern-day energy systems because they not only provide an answer to threats like extreme weather and power outages, but will also play a significant role in helping cities and communities meet their challenging CO2 reduction targets,” said Dave Hopping, President and CEO, Siemens Smart Infrastructure North America. “Our goal through this unique research project is to demystify the difficulties around installing and operating a microgrid to provide a clear path towards clean energy and carbon neutrality.”
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