First off, anyone who tells you they’ve got the magic bullet for renewable energy is either shilling a product, or delusional. The future of energy will be, as it is today, a mixture of policy and technology specific to the needs of the consumer. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to highlight one element of the energy future, micro-energy which is a form of distributed energy generation.
Distributed energy generation is touted as part of the futuristic sounding ‘smart-grid’. A future where traditional energy generation is supplemented with energy created close to the point of consumption, and individual machines and appliances communicate with each other and the grid in an effort to minimize consumer costs. It’s interesting to think that soon your dishwasher could refuse to operate because the grid has determined that it’s nearing capacity and is managing demand to avoid a disruption. Want to run that dishwasher regardless? Well then it’s time to invest in your own micro energy.
In my opinion, one of the most exciting aspects of the smart-grid is micro energy. Micro energy typically refers to user-sized renewable energy generating systems. Customers in the past would install enough energy generation for their own use, but increasingly are installing much more capacity to take advantage of feed-in-tariffs. We are starting to see the rise of companies in California, and other jurisdictions with particularly advantageous tariffs, renting space and becoming micro-utilities, generating power and selling it to the grid for a profit.
One of the biggest barriers to wide spread adoption of micro-energy is storing the energy. Micro-utilities will tell you that the grid is your storage, and any energy produced is pushed to the grid giving you a credit against future energy purchases. The drawback to this is two-fold, i) grid availability, ii) peak vs. non-peak pricing. When the grid is unavailable, think emergencies and black-outs, there is no place for that energy to go, and is lost to a dump load or into the ground. Critics will point out that the likelihood of this occurring is low, but being able to draw upon your stored energy in times of crisis has obvious benefits.
A stronger argument for storing micro energy is to maximize return on investment. Progressive feed-in-tariffs adjust the $/kWh based on time of day so that peak energy is more valuable than non-peak energy. While solar energy tends to have peak production occurring at the time of peak pricing, there are plenty of sun hours outside of peak pricing. Of course wind energy is notoriously variable making energy storage critical to maximizing R.O.I.
Being able to store your energy to sell at peak pricing is perhaps the best way to maximize the return on a micro-energy investment. It is for this reason that Global Wind Group Inc. delivers batteries as a standard part of our ZuS modular power system. Please contact us for more information.