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Grid

Slashing Commercial Emissions through Microgrids as a Service

Transportation as a Service (TaaS) is a concept most of us are familiar with — instead of buying your own car, you pay for people to transport you to where you want to go. (Uber — we’re talking about Uber.) We’re also all familiar with microgrids. In simple terms, they are small electricity grids. But who has heard of Microgrids as a Service?

Microgrids as a Service (MaaS) utilize the same concept of shared ownership as ridesharing. Essentially, a utility or service provider continues to own the microgrid (and all its associated technologies like solar PV, batteries or generators) while the customer just pays for energy via contract. The benefit from this is that the customer is able to get all the benefits of on-site stable, resilient, and possibly sustainable power generation without investing in distributed energy technologies themselves. However, creating a system like this and an agreement which is amicable to both the provider and the customer can be financially risky.

To help address this issue, Xendee has developed a software platform designed to reliably design and optimize microgrids and even help operators create accurate financial projections so they can create contracts with confidence and offer pricing and resiliency benefits that are competitive or better than traditional grid pricing.

For example, as with many things, a company may have an idea to invest in an onsite microgrid for their facility without doing much research. They end up hiring two consulting firms and a design firm and 6 months later they still don’t have a path forward or any confidence from the board that this is a good investment. Meanwhile, $60,000 has been spent on research. In contrast- a professional energy provider, engineering firm, equipment manufacturer or utility could contract with the company instead to directly offer the microgrid services but handle the design, implementation and operation themselves. This leaves the organization to do what they do best, and the energy provider to focus their resources on delivering results for the customer.

“Design makes up two-thirds of the implementation process,” Xendee writes. The editor in me wants to modify that a little bit. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be: “Design makes up two-thirds of a good implementation process.” It is also clear that this process can be easier for firms that specialize in this type of work.

Microgrid planning steps

Figure 1. This figure shows the steps of planning a microgrid. This process starts with the conceptual design and the gathering of input data from the project site. Next, a detailed technical design is developed along with specific technologies chosen. Third is a detailed power flow simulation and one line-diagram of the entire system. Finally a transient analysis must be performed to ensure the microgrid can stand up to peak usage and operational disturbances like an outage or industrial motor black start. Image courtesy Xendee.

Microgrids require a lot of work, a lot of planning, and a lot of specialization (just look at the graphic above). That’s where the idea of MaaS (Microgrid as a Service) comes in. If a company has developed an efficient, effective way of designing and implementing microgrids, it may be more efficient if they simply build more and operate them while others just act as customers. All that is required is a design platform that can make the design process affordable and fast while also being robust enough to capture all the unique challenges each microgrid project faces, like local energy prices, weather data, and historical usage information.

Microgrid design flow

Figure 2. Aside from creating optimized designs, Xendee can also help with the control and operation of the Microgrid through an optimized dispatch schedule. Additionally, by using performance monitoring of the project site, engineers can evaluate the effects of more investments or change how energy is generated or distributed to increase efficiency. Image courtesy Xendee.

With the project site information gathered, Xendee’s design platform can help engineers through all the phases of the microgrid project, creating a conceptual design and technical design for a microgrid as well as managing implementation and operation. Additionally, the Xendee software platform can be extended by other features like “Discovery” for finding viable sites at scale as well as a power flow and one line diagram tool to ensure the components can function under peak usage.  

Xendee describes their software as “an end-to-end solution for designing and operating Microgrid systems that intelligently optimizes design decisions as well as live operation and energy dispatch. This allows XENDEE to create reliable, bankable systems that reduce engineering costs, energy prices, and CO2 emissions while also improving energy security and resilience to power outages.”

How to build a microgrid diagram

Figure 3. This Sankey Diagram expresses the multitude of technologies, end use equipment and distinct energy domains analyzed by Xendee.

The complicated paths forward when trying to get a microgrid off the ground are daunting. Having a guide to optimize the design, catch potential mistakes before they happen, and create reliable financial projections is a good way of making microgrids seem simple again. And that is essentially what Xendee’s software is here to provide to utilities, service providers, and ultimately end customers. If you’ve ever struggled to put together a piece of furniture from IKEA, well, that’s a whole different league from a microgrid. Sometimes it’s easier and more financially efficient to have someone put it together for you.

Check out a video of this feature here.

This post is supported by Xendee.

 
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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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