You may have read about microgrids installed to support utilities in places like California and Hawaii. But there’s a reason why you rarely hear about microgrids for commercial and industrial facilities. Because of their complexity and costs, commercial and industrial (C&I) microgrids simply haven’t been considered a viable option — until now, that is.
Think microgrids are out of reach for your business? They’re not. In this blog post, I explain the technology behind new standardized, modular microgrids that might be good for your business and break down three common misconceptions.
What is a commercial and industrial microgrid?
What is a C&I microgrid, exactly? It’s a self-contained energy system that allows facilities to generate electricity on-site, often with a renewable energy source such as solar, and use it whenever it’s needed — a fit-for-purpose power plant on your site. C&I microgrids are designed to accommodate the intense and critical power needs of commercial and industrial facilities.
Do you manage a commercial property, manufacturing facility or water treatment plant? Do you have ESG or sustainability goals you need to meet? Are your energy costs and peak demand charges rising or unpredictable? Do you have resilience or electrification needs? Chances are, you’d benefit from a C&I microgrid.
Microgrids can operate while connected to a utility grid or even when the grid is down. It’s all possible via a network of power distribution equipment, renewables, battery systems, and intelligent software controls.
Here’s how it works in practice. Let’s say your company has a goal to reduce the carbon footprint at your site by 50%. A stand-alone solar system may be able to help you meet that goal. But as part of a microgrid, that zero-carbon solar energy can be optimally sized and proactively managed to increase the value by using it when utility power is more expensive — even if that’s during the evening. You could do the same to avoid paying peak demand charges. And if you have severe weather events impacting your business, you can use your on-site power while the grid is down to provide clean backup power.
Misconception #1: C&I microgrids are too complex.
Yes, microgrids are complex systems that require a special combination of hardware and software. But the good news is that new microgrid solutions for C&I environments are rarely designed from scratch.
Cutting edge microgrids are based on standardized designs with proven building blocks that are assembled in repeatable ways that reduce construction times, lower costs, and improve reliability and operational excellence.
Today’s C&I microgrids are more modular, plug-and-play, and reliable than ever before. These microgrids are designed, tested, and validated to meet specific needs. And the right partner can help you match the right system to reach your goals. These partners take out a lot of the complexity upfront and turn what is a complex energy network into a simple, smart, and repeatable solution that’s easier to install and maintain.
See how Bimbo Bakeries USA uses on-site renewable energy microgrids as a key component of its sustainability strategy at six sites throughout California.
Misconception #2: C&I microgrids don’t grow with my energy needs.
Energy needs at C&I facilities evolve over time during the year, and as businesses grow and adapt. When you need to keep your facility cool in the summer or ramp up production during peak demand, you’ll use more power. Also, you might be looking at adding some resilience or EV charging capabilities. But that doesn’t mean your microgrid can’t grow with your new energy requirements. Likewise, you don’t need to break your budget to get more energy capacity.
For starters, new C&I microgrids include digital platforms that monitor all the energy you generate, store, and use to power your operations. The platforms can track and report on evolving sustainability metrics to help you monitor your sustainability progress and comply with related disclosure requirements. These intelligent software platforms also make smart decisions on how to operate the microgrid to enhance value and are continually being updated to ensure that you get the most value from your on-site energy, regardless of how factors like your utility rate or energy needs evolve over time.
Likewise, if you are looking at adding assets for your resilience, power quality, or EV charging needs, these modular, scalable microgrids are future-ready and easy to upgrade.
At the same time, having the right partner can also ensure the microgrid always matches your energy needs. Partners such as GreenStruxure™ can monitor, maintain, adapt, and scale up a microgrid system with no upfront capital and much lower operational risk to you — ensuring you have the right solution in place at all times. And that brings us to the third topic: risk.
Misconception #3: C&I microgrids are too risky.
Let’s say you agree that microgrids are the right solution to help meet your company’s sustainability, cost, and resilience goals. But what about the financial and operational risks? It’s the right question to ask, especially in today’s world where more and more companies are focusing on their core business and devoting all their financial and people resources to strengthen it. Often the best place to invest your own capital and resources is in your core business and not in complex energy infrastructure.
This is where a business model like Energy as a Service (EaaS) can be a strategic win. With the EaaS model, operational, financial, and technical challenges are offloaded to an energy service partner such as GreenStruxure. You receive the outcomes from the system’s performance, such as zero-carbon energy, power bill savings, resilience, and optimized energy use from the grid and your on-site system. The energy services partner manages the microgrid system’s financing, along with the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance.
C&I microgrids and Energy as a Service: A new way to power your business
It’s time to throw all those misconceptions about C&I microgrids out the window. Today’s microgrid systems are modular, scalable, and easily accessible, minimizing risk while your commercial or industrial facility reaps the rewards.