In a major win for moving the country forward on its trek toward decarbonization, President Biden recently signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This bipartisan legislation includes more than $65 billion in investments for clean energy transmission and grid updates - the largest such investment in American history. The money will go towards updating grid infrastructure and enhancing resiliency and reliability with renewable energy.
Microgrids will need to play an important role in this transition. These distribution networks incorporate a variety of possible distributed energy resources (DER), such as solar energy, that can be optimized and aggregated into a single system. In 2021, the U.S. installed 979 MW of renewable energy microgrid capacity, and created around 17,290 jobs, according to a recent report from Guidehouse. Analysts are forecasting that the national market will nearly triple over the coming 10 years.
This growth has been facilitated by progress being made at the state level. Between 2015 and 2021, 23 states passed legislation promoting microgrid deployment, including Texas and California, the two largest state electric power markets. For instance, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently approved a request to update its Community Microgrid Enablement Tariff (CMET). This update significantly expands eligibility requirements, allowing for a greater range of locations where PG&E can build the electric distribution infrastructure needed for microgrids.
Wide range of benefits of microgrids
What’s contributing to the growing appeal of microgrids? Well, small, self-contained microgrids offer a wide variety of benefits, including:
Improves electric reliability: One of the most immediately noticeable benefits of microgrids is their ability to island themselves from the larger grid at the point of common coupling (PCC). This allows microgrids to continue operating even if the central grid fails. While disconnected from the traditional utility power grid, the microgrid system can still balance loads and generation, providing greatly enhanced electric reliability for its customers.
Boosts resilience against extreme weather: Reliability relates to maintaining electric power, whereas the grid’s resiliency speaks to its ability to avoid power outages in the first place or to quickly recover from them if they do occur. With extreme weather on the rise, IPPs need to ensure they have the means to deliver power when traditional sources go down. Yet, in 2020, U.S. power outages jumped 73% amid devastating weather events like hurricanes, heatwaves, windstorms and wildfires, according to PowerOutage.us. In most cases, Microgrids can immediately restore power, with customers barely noticing an outage in the first place. This can ensure consistent electricity, especially during times when it’s needed most, like after a severe weather incident.
Serves as a power source for critical services: In addition to restoring power to all customers, a microgrid can also focus on restoring power specifically for critical services. When the power goes out during an extreme weather event, those who need it most can’t afford to not have it. This includes first responders, like firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and other critical services. Utilities and IPPs also benefit from installing microgrids for their central headquarters. A microgrid that can island itself allows utilities and IPPs to keep their operations running, giving them the ability to restore power faster for customers during massive outages.
Creates new, well-paying jobs: With the national microgrid deployment forecast to triple over the coming decade, this growth comes with a supply of new, well-paying jobs. This means the deployment of renewable energy microgrid assets has the potential to create around 500,000 new jobs over the next decade. Additionally, the Guidehouse microgrid study noted that “for every $1 million invested in renewable energy microgrid assets, 3.4 skilled jobs are created plus $500,000 in additional economic benefits.”
How Trina Solar’s C&I Solutions can help
Deployment of solar PV systems for microgrids requires optimized PV systems with low balance of system (BOS) costs and a reduced levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) to maximize project value. Trina Solar’s C&I Solutions provides IPPs and EPC and developer firms with streamlined procurement, optimized interconnection and an innovative bundling of major components to do just that.
The seasoned PV industry veterans on Trina’s C&I Solutions team helps from scoping and planning solar microgrid projects through conceptual design and project development and into implementation and interconnection.
With microgrids poised to play a crucial role in the clean energy transition, Trina’s C&I Solutions can help deliver better results. Reach out to the solar pros at Trina Solar today to learn more.
Smart Energy Solutions
delivered straight to your inbox