Technology About Gas

Natural gas and microgrids

 By Andrew Burger
About gas

Microgrids are cropping up the world over as governments, commercial and non-profit organizations and communities work to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and environmental pollution while improving the efficiency, reliability and resiliency of power generation, transmission and distribution (T&D). Aiming to ensure baseload and 24×7 power generation, natural gas serves as a keystone microgrid fuel source…

Governments, commercial and non-profit organizations and communities work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution

A recently commissioned hybrid microgrid at the new corporate headquarters of data center-SaaS (Software as a Service) specialist OATI (Open Access Technology International) in the northern Midwest U.S. state of Minnesota illustrates the key role natural gas is playing as microgrid investment and deployment grows. Connected to the local utility grid, OATI’s “mission critical” microgrid combines a natural gas-fired microturbine, combined heat and power (CHP) co-generation, solar PV and wind power generation and the company’s own adaptive lithium-ion battery-based energy storage system (LiBESS) to meet all the power needs for its recently completed corporate headquarters and data center. OATI has also installed a diesel gen-set for emergency back-up power generation. OATI is by no means the only company incorporating the latest in natural gas microturbines and combined heat and power (CHP) co-generation technology to roll out a new generation of distributed, low-emissions power-energy infrastructure on-site behind the utility meter.

Grid Connected, but Autonomous

Grid-connected but autonomous, hybrid microgrids under construction at the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Fort Belvoir Army base in Northern Virginia and Eastern Mennonite University are able to meet all the respective organizations’ electricity needs while also enhancing overall performance of the local utility grid.

Duke Energy Renewables and Schneider Electric are working together as part of a public-private partnership to deploy two hybrid community microgrids

Not all that far away, Duke Energy Renewables and Schneider Electric are working together as part of a public-private partnership to deploy two hybrid community microgrids at the Public Safety Headquarters (PSHQ) and County Correctional Facility (CCF) in Maryland’s Montgomery County. Natural gas microturbines, CHP co-generation and solar PV arrays will provide uninterrupted 24×7 electrical power during emergencies and during normal, everyday operating conditions. What would have been waste heat from onsite power generation will be captured by an 800 kW CHP system and used for heating and cooling. In addition, the CHP system will serve in lieu of battery-based energy storage to provide electricity when outages occur or solar power is not readily available. Also noteworthy, Montgomery County will pay for the two community microgrids at no upfront cost by taking advantage of Schneider Electric’s Microgrid-as-a-Service business model and a special purpose power purchase agreement (PPA).

Natural gas and Microgrids in Asia-Pacific

In the wake of news of the first microgrid funded by the Chinese government, Capstone Turbine is providing the microturbine for a 10 MW wind power-based microgrid

Natural gas is also playing a key role in microgrid projects in Europe and the Asia-Pacific. In the wake of news of the first microgrid funded by the Chinese government, Capstone Turbine is providing the microturbine for a 10 MW wind power-based microgrid. Purchased by an unnamed industrial customer in Beijing , a major Chinese wind power company placed the order for Capstone’s C600 Signature Series microturbine, the first for Capstone in China.

The order follows announcement of the first government-funded microgrid in China in January, and underscores growing Asian interest in the technology. “[I]nterest in microgrids worldwide is expanding,” Capstone President and CEO Darren Jamison commented. “Reports differ somewhat, but most estimates today put the overall value of the market for microgrids and remote power systems in the several billion dollar range with forecasts to rise nearly twentyfold over the next decade,” he said. In addition to wind power, the dual mode grid-connected and “island mode” microgrid will incorporate solar, energy storage and, anchored by the C600 microturbine, combined heat and power (CHP) co-generation.

…and in Europe

Turning to recent microgrid news originating in Europe, Italy’s Enel Green Power acquired 100 percent ownership of Demand Energy Networks, a U.S.-based provider of intelligent software and energy storage systems. Demand Energy’s DEN.OS is a software control platform that provides customers the ability to optimize management of distributed energy resources in real-time, according to the company. Demand Energy has completed 24 projects in the U.S. and Latin America with a combined rated power/energy capacity of 3-MW/9-MWh. Among others, the company has played a leading role in carrying out “behind the meter” microgrid projects on utility customer sites in New York and south of the U.S. border, in Costa Rica.

For its part, Enel sees promise in providing Demand Energy with access to its technologically and geographically diversified renewable energy project portfolios. Its projects span 24 countries and includes more than 1,000 operational plants. More broadly, Enel explained that the acquisition falls right in line with the corporation’s global business strategy, key aspects of which is taking advantage of acquisition opportunities that enhance operational efficiency and leverage digital technologies in new, innovative ways.

Natural Gas as an Anchor for Renewable Microgrids

The gas turbine is the anchor of many microgrids

A leading source of microgrid industry news and information, Microgrid Knowledge recently published a guide that illustrates and expands on the key role the latest in natural gas power generation technology is playing in the U.S. and microgrid markets worldwide. Featuring brief case studies in Australia, Europe and the U.S., the Microgrid Knowledge white paper, “Gas Turbine Microgrids: Reliability and Sustainability through Intelligence,” describes how natural gas-fired microturbines and CHP co-generation have emerged as “anchors” for construction of hybrid renewable microgrids and distributed energy resource management systems. “The gas turbine is the anchor of many microgrids,” Daniel Fingleton, Solar Turbines’ program manager for strategic growth and special projects, elaborated. “If the plant has the ability to island, which essentially makes it a microgrid, the gas turbine is a critical part. It is key to load control, frequency control, voltage control. It is the heart behind the microgrid.

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about the author
Andrew Burger
Andrew Burger has been reporting on energy, technology, political economy, climate and the environment for a variety of online media properties for over five years.