Microgrids and Hybrid Power Generation

A microgrid is a small-scale power grid that can operate independently (island mode) of the mains (or macrogrid), as well as in conjunction with the grid (grid mode) to supply backup or supplementary power. Any small-scale, localized power station that has its own generation and storage resources and definable boundaries can be considered a microgrid – such as any power station on any island around the world.

Why it becomes such a hot topic?
Microgrids are becoming increasingly popular because of the rapid rise in power demand due to population and industrial growth. In many locations, the current mains grid system is unable to cope with the increase in power demands. That´s why businesses, governments and even some individuals have begun to resort to generating their own power, to ensure reliability, but also to gain more control over rapidly rising electricity prices.

Islands are also becoming increasingly interesting in microgrids because of the above increasing demands, but also because the difficulty of obtaining electricity from the main island, (or mainland) electricity grid system.

The increase in the price of diesel, and the associated costs of diesel transportation to isolated island communities, has also let to the development of local microgrids into Hybrid PV/Diesel Microgrid Systems.

What is a hybrid system?
Remote places such as islands or mines are often located outside of the national electricity grid reach and therefore, have to use their own microgrids to generate electricity. Usually, these microgrids rely heavily on diesel gensets. When the diesel system is combined with a renewable source of energy (such as solar panels, wind turbines or hydro power) it’s a hybrid system, bringing the reliability of diesel power generation along with the environmental benefits and the cost savings of the renewable source. A hybrid system can operate with one diesel generator or many, depending on the amount of electricity required.

Why the PV-diesel combination is so popular?
The PV-Diesel Hybrid combination is popular because of the ease of integration between the two, and the relatively low cost of the photovoltaic panels and ancillary equipment. Integration with Wind Turbines is also possible within a Hybrid system, but the initial costs (and therefore return on investment times), on a cluster of wind turbines is much, much higher.

What are the benefits?
The main benefits of a Hybrid system are the reduction in power generation costs, and the increase in system reliability, as well as the environmental benefits, found from using a renewable source of energy.

Why use the ComAp Hybrid System?
With hybrid systems, two goals are always crucial - save fuel and keep the system reliability. Thanks to its advanced functions designed specifically for hybrid systems ComAp controllers can maximize the amount of energy from renewables while not endangering the system stability.

ComAp system continuously monitors data from all sources of energy, including solar, wind, hydro, batteries and gen-sets. ComAp controllers are suitable for multiple gen-set applications and can also directly control the output of Solar, Wind & Battery Storage Systems.

ComAp also has a cloud forecasting system which increases the efficiency of any PV-Diesel hybrid power generation installation. The forecasting system uses a camera to continuously monitor the cloud cover over the photovoltaic installation. The cloud forecasting system uses an algorithm to predict overall solar irradiation that is above the PV cells. The algorithm uses overhead cloud cover, background radiation and other factors to predict the solar output and ensure the maximum utilization of the PV system before the gen-set starts. This system allows for the maximum input from the PV system, whilst also reducing the use of the diesel gen-set – resulting in a reduction of wear on the engine and saving in diesel consumption.

Christopher Pye
Christopher Pye
Engineering & Innovation Manager

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