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Microgrid Design & Cost Options


Microgrids are amazing. On a microscale (my house, for instance), a microgrid is simple — solar feeds a battery which powers my house when there’s no sun. It would get challenged to do more than that. But “more than that” is what larger scale microgrids need. Control systems, multiple energy inputs, storage, distribution, control panels, and the like, make it much more complex to make sure a community has resilient, carbon-free power at all times.

The first challenge is to set the locations for everything in a microgrid. Taking the time to find sites that meet programmatic criteria is costly. Putting together the required reports and data summaries to go get approvable financing is costly and exceptionally fraught with potential pitfalls. Finally, operating a microgrid profitably can be challenging if things change, as they always do.

At RE+, America’s largest renewable energy conference, I got the chance to hang out with the folks from Xendee, who were nice enough to walk me through the nuts and bolts of how a large scale microgrid moves from idea to implementation, including site development, configuration, and even financing.

Xendee worked with Rocky Mountain Institute to develop a financing tool, which is now integrated into its design software. It optimizes for fuel type (whether it’s solar, small scale wind, on-site hydro, etc.) based on the other inputs in terms of resources on site. Users can actually bundle loans on multiple energy types with their existing lender.

Xendee’s software allows users to optimize based on a number of criteria, including limits on type of energy the user wants (and Xendee includes 25 types of fuel options), carbon emissions, and finances. In the example their sales rep showed me, a military base had implemented the design, integrating a large scale solar array and energy storage on site. For the engineers, it balances the inputs and desired outputs and allows them to fluidly lay out multiple scenarios. For the manager, it balances the CapEx and OpEx and produces slick financial reports. For the logistics person, it makes the emergency plan easy to understand and plan for, and in the case of this military base, they planned for 3 days disruption of power as one of the inputs, just to do some scenario planning.

Here’s a case study of how an energy company is using Xendee’s software to improve its sales to potential microgrid operators.

Read all about microgrids here for more info.

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Written By

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur focused on making the world a better place for all its residents. Scott is the founder of CleanTechnica and was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has performed efficiency retrofits on more than 16,000 homes and small businesses, reducing carbon pollution by more than 27 million pounds a year and saving customers more than $6.3 million a year on their utilities. In a previous life, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) , and Green Living Ideas.


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