Microgrids, Legacy Grids, and the Faraday Grid

The tenth annual Advanced Energy Conference took place in New York City to bring together influential leaders, key researchers, and policy makers from every part of the energy sector. This year’s conference was centred around the theme “The Future of Energy is Here”; and accordingly, keenness to explore the energy sphere’s prominent research and development characterised the event. Andrew Scobie CEO and Richard Dowling Chief Economist and Head of Government Affairs represented Faraday Grid as part of Scottish Development International’s Energy Mission and Learning Journey delegation.

On the opening day of the conference, Andrew took stage to speak about the pioneering Faraday Grid solution, specifically, the possibilities it can open up for progressing microgrid technology. Below synopsis explains the overall concept of Andrew’s presentation, the slides to which can be accessed HERE.

 

Today’s energy system is undergoing fundamental structural changes. Historically, electricity has predominantly been supplied by a few central generation points to an immense number of dispersed consumers via a grid structure often referred to as legacy grid. Nevertheless, with the rise in demand for non-conventional, distributed energy sources, and the accessibility of technology for localised energy generation, a general trend of decentralisation emerges.

Growing adoption of microgrids is part of this decentralisation. Microgrids have similar components to legacy grids, such as generation, distribution, consumption and storage; yet in a much smaller scale. And it is small size specifically that allows for an inherent convenience to materialise: the capacity to be tailored for peculiar demands. Despite being engineered to supply for local needs, microgrids themselves are still generally dependent on an external, bigger grid to provide both potential supply and reception.   

The value proposition for microgrid developments has historically been dependent upon five key factors[1]. Firstly, efficiency and reliability are essential: microgrids should lower their energy intensity as well as distribution system loss and should also be able to reliably function at nearly 100% at critical loads. They should provide stability of power to meet exacting consumer energy requirements, and enable sustainability, by expanding generation to renewables and cleaner fuel sources. Lastly, as for all modern networks, robust cyber- and physical security is not to be compromised.

Independent of these criteria, in recent years, the economics of microgrids have substantially improved with the growth of distributed energy resources. This is demonstrated by Navigant’s expectation that the Microgrid Enabling Technology market is to reach $112 billion by 2026[2]. Poor performance of network scale grids (as evidenced by: spiralling end user costs; declining reliability; and insufficient decrease in usage of fossil fuels) has also strengthened the relative case for microgrids. Moreover, the utility sector now perceives microgrids to be a 'mortal threat' to the traditional power grid[3].

Microgrids however are not categorical competitors of legacy grids, especially because sustaining the latter is necessary for consumers who cannot afford alternatives. In fact, sustaining an efficient and profitable grid network is beneficial not only for society overall but also for microgrid users and developers specifically, because the economic value of microgrids is maximised through interoperability and gains from trade. Microgrids should therefore be thought of as nodes in a wider system that legacy grids are also a part of.

In line with this, there have been gestures signalling the readiness to enable a sensible integration of microgrids, principally aiming to balance inequalities in pricing. UK Regulator, Ofgem is reviewing charging arrangements so that network companies can equitably recover costs[4]. The Chair of PG&E claims microgrids should have “to pay through some sort of charge”[5]. The U.S. uses microgrid services tariff structures to encourage microgrid use and development. Nonetheless, microgrids had been constructed with a single stakeholder in mind (e.g., a military base, a university, or an industrial estate). This means that the interoperability of distributed microgrids and utility grids remains elusive and costly. So much so that New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision is handing out $50m in prize money for microgrid feasibility and design studies[6], and ComEd’s Bronzeville microgrid integration pilot costs above $25 million[7]. The priority should therefore be finding a common protocol to efficiently integrate microgrids into the system. This is a challenge that has barely been addressed, let alone solved. And it requires an intrinsic, system-wide solution.

The revolutionary Faraday Grid solution provides just that. It is a truly unique technology that promises a cleaner, more reliable, affordable, and connected energy system. When designing the Faraday Grid, we aimed to achieve inherent systemic efficiency, therefore we mapped all the criteria a modern electricity grid should fulfil - should this be within the domain of economics, physics or the societal norms and behaviours. Focusing on the entirety of the system as opposed to its individual qualities allowed for a design to emerge that is as close as possible to systemic optimality. Therefore, our system has been purposefully constructed to be flexible to create an enabling platform for innovation: to facilitate the efficient use of external storage and demand response technologies, and importantly, to allow for a seamless plug and play integration of microgrids.

The Faraday Solution composes of three layers of superior technology. Its most comprehensive structure, the Emergent Transactional Platform was designed to allow any supported device or agent to participate in the trading of energy. It solves the problem of intermittence by balancing supply and demand via real time price signals. It operates with a software protocol used over the Faraday Grid.

The Faraday Grid is an autonomous, responsive, electrical meta-network; agnostic to generation and consumption; with its own inertia; enabling more productive, resilient and stable electricity transfer. Due to these unique qualities, the Faraday Grid lifts the grid’s tolerance for variable distributed sources and demand – it is able to double the capacity for renewable energy integration by itself. It solves for short term volatility by its own inertia. Ultimately, it ensures better power quality at a lower cost.

The Faraday Grid itself is enabled by a quantum shift in technology – the Faraday Exchanger. Similar to the way the adoption of the router enabled the Internet, the Faraday Exchanger enables the Faraday Grid. Individual Faraday Exchangers are autonomous nodes in a network from which the Faraday Grid arises – a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. By enabling bi-directional power flow, the Faraday Exchanger is the underpinning technology of a new energy platform. The Faraday Exchanger is a hardware device that fit seamlessly into the existing electricity system, and:

✓ Controls Voltage within + or – 25%

✓ Maintains Frequency

✓ Maintains a power factor = 1

✓ Harmonics removed to the 99th

The thorough design of the Faraday Grid crystallises in remarkable numbers when applied to real-life problems. Our high-fidelity modelling and simulation show that the implementation of our grid system in New York State[8] could remove $12.4 billion USD of power quality problems – equivalent to $750 per New York household over the next five years. It would also increase Renewable Energy Hosting Capacity by 30% - 9.27 TWh[9]., which means that the Faraday Grid would help to remove 3 million tons of CO2[10] in New York This is equivalent to 583,000 cars off the road every year. Furthermore, the Faraday Grid could reduce network losses of 517.3 GWh which is equivalent to 30% of New York’s remaining coal generation. And this is only in New York - the Faraday Grid has similar potential to deliver benefits all over the world. By creating a network sufficiently robust and flexible to facilitate the inevitable transition into a new energy era, the Faraday Grid truly enables a platform for innovation.

[1] Dohn, R. L. (2011). The business case for microgrids. White Paper Siemens. 

[2] Navigant Research (2018) Microgrid Enabling Technologies Market Overview

[3] Utilitydive.com  - https://www.utilitydive.com/news/microgrids-are-mortal-threat-to-electric-utilities-monopoly/183369/

[4] Ofgem(2017) Targeted Charging Review

[5] RenewableEnergyWorld.com  - http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/news/2013/10/big-corporations-embracing-microgrids-a-threat-for-utilities.html

[6] GTM Resarch (2018) - https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/illinois-decision-opens-the-path-to-shared-utility-customer-microgrids

[7] ComEd (2018) - https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180228006367/en/ComEd-Approved-Build-Microgrid-Clusters-Nation

[8] Input Data from U.S. Energy Information Administration (2018)

[9] Assumes hosting capacity ~23%.

[10] Based on Marginal Emission Factor of 0.316 kg CO2eq/kWh