The Microgrid: A Potential Power Solution

While outages are considered rare events for major airports, in December 2017, a power failure crippled flight operations at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos. For three days running, flight operations at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) were handicapped due to a continuous power failure at the terminal. All airlines operating at the terminal experienced flight delays and disruptions, and passengers were made to wait endlessly to check in for departure.

Health Care (Hospitals, clinics, etc.) are not left out of the power outages. In a recent article, Dr Ijeweme Odiawa recalled a vivid memory from his neurosurgery posting as a medical student. He flashed a torchlight at the spinal cord of a patient during an operation. This was because, after a power outage, the switch to the generator was taking too long, the only other option was using rechargeable lamps. Electricity is also required for lighting heat management, electronic diagnostic tools, as well as refrigerating medical supplies and vaccines. Without these indispensable tools and consumables, the fight against HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, etc. cannot be won.

The consequences of continuous power failures and outages should have establishments like airports, hospitals, universities, factories, etc. examining the effects of power outages on their operations.  In their introspection and concern, these establishments must ask “what measures, plans and strategies might serve to mitigate that risk?” Faced with an ageing electric grid and unreliable power supply, implementing energy resilience solutions like microgrids may be a potential power solution.

All You Need to Know About Microgrids

Microgrids are local energy networks that can run separately from the larger electrical grid during power outages. They can provide power to crucial public services and infrastructure such as hospitals, military bases, and transportation systems. Microgrids incorporate smart technologies, diverse power generation and storage systems to provide a degree of power continuity that exceeds what simple backup generators can offer. Microgrids also enhance power quality and add the ability to interact with the macro-grid in ways that can generate energy savings and, in some cases, create new revenue streams. Microgrids often incorporate low- and no-carbon energy generation technologies, they can also yield significant environmental benefits.

With a microgrid in place, airports, hospitals, universities, estates, factories and even military bases will never have to worry about power failures or outages. The biggest advantage a microgrid offers is its ability to operate independently of the macro-grid. This means a consistent power supply with little or no downtime. This is achieved by integrating renewable energy like solar energy via solar farms or with wind power and a storage system. Incorporating renewable energy with utility-scale battery storage could provide both resilience, longevity and drastically reduce carbon emissions.

Operations can run smoothly-at airports, customers will not have to worry about flight delays due to power failure; at hospitals, doctors will not need to worry about an outage during an operation, lives can be saved; in universities, students will always have access to power to aid in continuous learning. The benefit of investing and developing a microgrid is promising across various sectors.

Microgrids will also aid in cutting down huge amounts spent on running backup generators. Optimization methods can be included in a microgrid to improve its efficiency. Smart meters used with microgrids will monitor loads and adjust power supply as required. Excess energy can be sold to neighbouring communities at a retail or wholesale price and will generate extra revenue.

The need to access adequate and reliable power supply is growing, energy demands are rising and capacity required gets bigger yearly. In meeting energy goals, reducing carbon emissions must be taken into account. Greener energy is the way forward to battle climate change. A microgrid is one way both goals can be achieved, and it promises reliability and consistency the national grid cannot guarantee at the moment.

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