Accelerating Progress Towards Smart Cities With Microgrids



The move to distributed energy generation continues apace with businesses, public services, college campuses and collectives of residents increasingly taking power generation into their own hands. Can a smarter grid become the platform that accelerates progress towards smarter cities?
Across the country, some progressive utilities and cities are answering that question with a resounding “yes” — and they’re leading that transformation with microgrids provided by innovative companies.

Smart Projects

One of these forward-thinking projects is Hudson Yards in New York. This huge development project will see 14 new buildings built on 28 acres to provide over 18 million square feet of residential and commercial units. It is currently the largest construction project in the US. The first tower opened in May 2016 and the project is expected to be complete in 2024. But much sooner than that, its system of sensors and sustainability technologies will go online in 2018 — a major step in creating a self-contained smart village within the larger city. Turtle & Hughes is involved in the building of two cogeneration plants sited in the retail pavilion and the 10 Hudson Yards tower, forming a microgrid underneath the neighborhood. Hudson Yards is also being built to work as a “safe zone” that can provide electricity, heat and vital services for the city’s residents if another storm like Hurricane Sandy hits.
Another forward-thinking project is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s collaboration with Microgrid Systems Laboratory (MSL) and Santa Fe Community College (SFCC). This partnership aims to develop an advanced campus-wide microgrid for training, research, and testing and validation. The campus microgrid will be a state-of-the-art facility linking existing assets — including a 1.5 megawatt photovoltaic array and a district heating and cooling system — with new technology that feeds in locally generated hydropower too.
In a third example of innovative smart projects, ABB, a leading power and automation group, is helping an electric cooperative owned by residents of Kodiak Island in Alaska to integrate more renewable energy into its microgrid. To do this, ABB is leveraging the PowerStore solution, a commercial flywheel technology that integrates with a battery system. Kodiak Island’s microgrid can now integrate more energy from its expanded wind farm and more effectively manage the supply stability challenges it faces from current construction work aimed at enhancing its port operations.

New Microgrid Technologies

A major element of the SFCC project is a new greenhouse that will incorporate advanced aquaponics and hydroponics techniques for enhanced efficiency in the use of water, energy and recycled wastes. The technologies and processes being developed as part of the construction project also now form a part of the curriculum at SFCC under its new Smart Grid and Microgrid Program.
New systems that use gels, liquids and molten silicon or salt are expected to transform the renewable energy storage market making microgrids a much more viable option for more businesses and households, as well as for power plants that don’t feed into a national grid. The Jemalong Solar Station Pilot plant in New South Wales Australia is trialling the use of molten salt to store heat generated through solar energy, using concentrated heat collectors rather than photovoltaic cells. The pilot plant is also the first to use the MACCSol air cooled condenser, which was developed as part of a global project funded by the European Union and doesn’t use any water in the cooling cycle. It was designed specifically to be used in concentrated solar power(CSP) plants and other thermal energy systems in areas where water supply is low and unreliable.

Smarter Grids and Cities

So what do projects and technologies like these mean for the future of microgrids, and what will their role be in smart cities?
It’s long been thought that as distributed energy generation grows, the days of the national grid are numbered. With advances making it easier to generate, store and rely on self-generated electricity supplies, it seems that any city of the future that wants to consider itself smart is going to be relying on a network of microgrids to power it.

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