Types of microgrids, with examples

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No two microgrids are the same. Check out types of microgrids with real life case studies.

Microgrids are not fundamentally different from wide-area grids. They support smaller loads, serve fewer consumers, and are deployed over smaller areas. But microgrids and wide-area grids have the same job within the power generation eco-system, distributing electricity, and the same constraints, perfectly matching generation and load at all times. 

Microgrids existed before anybody used the word microgrid. For example, smaller islands have electric grids which usually qualify as microgrids. Likewise, in the early days of electricity, the individual systems of private utilities were microgrids. Over time, almost all of those individual systems were linked, resulting in continent-wide interconnections. 

Microgrids, however, are making a comeback. They are seen as a practical, cost-effective way to integrate local renewable energy resources, and to provide redundancy and resilience. There are two categories of microgrids, off-grid and grid-connected and each encompass many different setups. 

Off-grid microgrids

Off-grid microgrids are constructed where there is a significant need for electricity but no access to a wide-area electrical grid. 

Islands that are too far from the mainland are typically served by their own microgrid. In the past, island microgrids were usually built around diesel or heavy fuel oil generators. While easy to transport and easy to store, these fuels could prove to be expensive. However, in the absence of a suitable alternative, many islands continue to rely heavily on such generators. 

Why were suitable alternatives absent? Islands have more than enough wind and plenty of sun. Yes, but integrating large quantities of solar arrays and wind turbines on the electrical system of an island can be very difficult. Diesel generators can be switched on and off, on-demand. They have the capability to closely match the electrical demand of the island as it increases and decreases. Wind turbines, in contrast, produce electricity when there is wind. Solar panels work when the sun is shining. If the wind abates or if clouds obscure the sun for moments, another source of electricity needs to be available to pick up the slack and meet the electrical load demand. This type of dynamic management of generation and demand requires sophisticated supervisory controls and advanced power electronics. In the past neither were a practical option for small-scale island systems. 

Today, modern microgrid features allow island utilities to integrate larger quantities of intermittent renewable resources such as solar and wind. Stationary energy storage, in particular, is extremely helpful in managing transitions between intermittent resources and traditional generators. 

Island utilities find that investing in a modern microgrid grants multiple benefits. Generating more electricity from renewable resources allows islands to reduce both their fuel costs and the local environmental impact associated with the use of those fossil fuels. Using their generators in a more optimized way allows island utilities to reduce maintenance costs, increase efficiency, and, in many cases, reduce the number of generators needed on the island. The reliability of the electrical system is also improved, leading to better service quality and less frequent outages. 

You can find a real life example at Calvert Island in British Columbia, Canada, where Cummins Inc. was involved in a project to upgrade the island’s microgrid.

Off-grid microgrids also exist in remote areas. Many settlements in Siberia and in Northern Canada, for example, are not connected to any outside electrical system. Remote industrial operations also possess a self-sufficient electrical system. Mines, in particular, require large and robust electrical installations. 

These remote electrical systems are required to ship diesel, fuel oil or other liquid fuels over long distances. Unsurprisingly, this can quickly become very expensive. Imagine trucking fuel across hundreds of miles of frozen terrain or on a dirt road. As a result, the owners of these remote industrial operations are eager to deploy as much renewable power as possible, along with sophisticated microgrids to effectively integrate and distribute that power. Some mines also seek to synthesize their own fuel on site using renewable electricity.

Grid-connected microgrids

You don’t need to be on an island or in the middle of the desert to benefit from a microgrid. 

In fact, many microgrid users are located in urban or industrial areas that are fully served by an electric utility. Why do businesses and institutions go through the trouble of investing in a microgrid when they can simply receive electricity from the utility? There are two main reasons. 

One reason is that they want to avoid power outages. 

Homeowners invest in a home generator for the same reason. The difference between a home with a generator and, for example, a military base with a microgrid is complexity and scale. A home has one, maybe two electrical panels. All it takes to integrate a home generator to a residential electricity system is a transfer switch. 

A military base includes dozens of buildings, several generators and a variety of critical electrical equipment such as radars and air traffic control systems, often spread over hundreds of acres. Integrating these components requires a sophisticated electrical infrastructure—in other words, a microgrid. 

Civilian facilities with complex electrical systems incorporate microgrids to ensure the reliability of their electrical service as well. Hospitals, airports, university campuses and large industrial plants all utilize microgrid components to effectively integrate backup power generation into their electrical system.

The other reason that motivates grid-connected facilities to invest in a microgrid is cost: A microgrid encapsulates all of a facility’s electrical equipment. 

Example of a microgrid delayed at a port
Click on the image to take a closer look at an example of a microgrid deployed at a port.

From the perspective of the utility, only one electrical meter is seen. This allows the microgrid owner to deploy solar arrays, wind turbines, backup or prime power generators and other electrical equipment without direct connection to the utility grid. 

Many port operators, for example, own a type of shipping container crane known as regenerative cranes. Regenerative cranes consume electricity when they lift a container, and generate electricity when they lower a container. Few utilities would allow this type of electrical equipment to be directly connected to their grid—at least not with the regenerative mode enabled. Port operators therefore create microgrids connecting their cranes (as well as backup generators). This allows the cranes that are lowering containers to provide electricity to the cranes that are lifting containers. This results in a dramatic reduction in the net electrical consumption supported by the utility, and, thus, in savings for the port operator.

Microgrid options are driven by the global imperative to move quickly to renewable energy for power generation. They also allow facility owners to meet immediate practical needs. Improvements in microgrid technology mean that the possibilities for both large and small, connected, or remote microgrids are increasing. Modern microgrids are making innovations in electricity generation possible in all corners of the globe.

Interested in more on microgrids? You might also like: 

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Aytek Yuksel - Cummins Inc

Aytek Yuksel

Aytek Yuksel is the Content Marketing Leader for Cummins Inc., with a focus on Power Systems markets. Aytek joined the Company in 2008. Since then, he has worked in several marketing roles and now brings you the learnings from our key markets ranging from industrial to residential markets. Aytek lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and two kids.

5 businesses that can benefit from selling Cummins generators

Cummins dealer discussing home generator

Ninety percent of American business are small- and medium-size. They are the true engines of our economy, employing millions of workers. With many of them looking for new ways to expand their services, generate income and grow their businesses, Cummins home standby and portable generators could be a new source of revenue. 

A Silver Lining in Dark Clouds

According to the Associated Press, power outages from severe weather have doubled over the past two decades, straining our country’s aging power grid. This has increased the frequency and duration of power outages. These frequent outages create a need for reliable backup power for households and other businesses. And for enterprising small- and medium-size businesses, satisfying this need with Cummins generators is a huge opportunity.   

Which businesses could benefit the most from becoming Cummins authorized dealers? Here are our top five:

1. General Contractors — When natural disasters such as ice storms, hurricanes, high winds, forest fires or earthquakes hit, lost power isn’t the only challenge customers face. There is often physical damage to property that must be repaired. When they are helping customers to rebuild, general contractors have an opportunity to estimate home or business’s energy needs and suggest adding a Cummins QuietConnect™ Home Standby Generator. If the customer agrees, the general contractor not only profits from the sale of the generator, but also the labor to install it.

2. Electricians — A good electrician is a trusted source of information. Not only are they experts with the flow of electrons, they often know their customer’s specific electrical setups. After a prolonged power outage, many are often asked “Is there anything you can do to keep my electricity on the next time the power goes out?” Electricians who sell and install Cummins QuietConnect Home Standby Generators can say, “Yes, yes there is.” Installing home standby generators can be another valuable service that electricians provide.

3. Heating & Cooling Contractors — During a power outage, one of the most critical systems knocked offline for home and business owners is their central heating and cooling system. Going without heat or cool air for a long period of time is not only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous if the temperatures are extreme outside. So, naturally, once power is restored, finding a way to keep the HVAC system on during the next power outage becomes top-of-mind. Since heating and cooling contractors are experts at installing large systems in homes and businesses, adding Cummins QuietConnect standby generators to homes and businesses is a natural way to add another profit center to their businesses.

4. Online Retailers — Up until now, we’ve been discussing standby generators. For businesses that don’t specialize in installing generators permanently into place, Cummins portable generators can be a moneymaker.  While portable generators can be used during power outages, they are better suited to smaller tasks due to their portability. This makes them ideal for camping, tailgating, construction worksites and more. With Cummins’ rugged and reliable reputation, our portable generators are ideal for retailers focused on these market segments.

5. Solar Panel Installers — Most home solar panels are connected directly to the power grid. So, when the power goes out, the solar panels stop providing power. For a backup source of electricity, solar panel installers can either install a solar battery backup, which gets charged by the solar panels, or a home standby generator. Typically, solar battery backups can only power a home for a few hours, so if an area is prone to weather-related outages, a home standby generator such as the Cummins QuietConnect is the better choice.

The Time is Now

With more people than ever looking for backup power generation, now’s a great time to expand your company’s offerings by becoming a Cummins authorized dealer. To learn more visit, cummins.com/partners/dealers.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Ten ways to prepare for rolling blackouts

Cummins service disconnect box mounted on side of house

Heat waves that cause excessive demand for electricity…droughts that make hydropower less available…power grids near active wildfires shut down for safety…aging, overstressed power grids…high winds that snap powerlines…these are all reasons why some parts of the country may face planned power outages this year.  

If you live in an area prone to rolling blackouts, here are some tips to help you ready your family for them: 

  • Sign up for notifications from your local electricity utility — If this service is available from your local utility, it can give you a warning to start preparing before the power goes out. 
  • Download our Power Outage Ultimate Checklist — It provides in-depth information about what to do before, during and after an outage. It even shows you what to do for children, pets and family members with medical needs. You can download it here
  • Stockpile nonperishable food and water — Make sure you have a manual can opener, too. Plan to have enough for everyone so your family can stay hydrated and nourished during the blackout. 
  • Make or purchase ice and coolers — If you have enough warning, make or purchase ice so you can pack some of your perishable food in coolers to preserve it. (A refrigerator will only maintain its internal temperature for about four hours, a freezer for about 48 hours.) 
  • Buy flashlights and extra batteries — Blackouts can be, well, black. Flashlights can be used for safety if you need to move around at night but use them sparingly. Make sure you have enough for every family member.
  • Keep mobile phones charged and gas tanks full — Your phones and your vehicles are your lifelines to the outside world. If you have an EV, make sure it’s fully charged. 
  • Practice manually opening garage doors — If you need to drive somewhere, you first need to be able to get your car out of the garage. 
  • Plan for medications that require refrigeration — You may need to store them in a cooler like your refrigerated food until the power returns. 
  • Invest in a whole-home standby generator — For the ultimate peace of mind, consider one of the Cummins QuietConnect™ home standby generators. In the event of a power outage, your generator will automatically switch on and keep your home powered.  
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups — Place them in central locations on every floor so if any carbon monoxide gets in the home, you are immediately alerted. 

Rolling blackouts seem to be becoming more and more common. Fortunately, there are ways to plan ahead and keep them from completely disrupting your life. To see the different ways that Cummins can help your family keep the power on during these planned power outages, visit us at cummins.com/na/generators/home-standby/whole-house-and-portable or find a local dealer at cummins.com/na/generators/home-standby/find-a-dealer

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Cummins Turbo Technologies gears up to launch the 8th Generation Holset Series 400 Variable Geometry Turbocharger

8th generation HE400VGT

As emission regulations become more stringent, Cummins Turbo Technologies (CTT) is committed to helping customers reduce emissions and advance fuel economy through innovative new air handling technologies.

Built on 70 years of innovation and dependability, CTT and Holset have introduced a wide range of industry leading air handling technologies. In 2021, CTT launched the 7th generation 400 series Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT) to help engine manufacturers meet future emission standards and offer best in class fuel economy. At Cummins, innovation never stops as we continue to advance our current technologies, while developing new ones. With this philosophy in mind, CTT is now preparing to introduce the 8th generation HE400VGT. It is specifically engineered to have top of class performance, reliability and durability for the 10-15L heavy-duty truck market.  

CTT has made significant improvements in turbocharger performance with its latest generation of products. The 8th generation turbocharger will have 5 percent improved efficiency over the previous 7th generation turbo.

In addition to offering improved turbocharger efficiency, which helps customers in engine downsizing, the HE400VGT will have a better transient response, enhanced compressor side oil leak robustness and dual sourcing on key components for supply chain flexibility.

Key highlights of the Holset HE400VGT include a new bearing system and near zero clearances to enhance performance and transient response. These enhancements are achieved by tighter clearances on the compressor stage, lower radial movement on the turbine stage, improved surface finish and new aero designs.

Scheduled to be launched in 2024, this turbocharger incorporates a next generation smart electric actuator and speed sensor with the latest chipset to enhance performance and durability. The dual sourcing strategy helps mitigate any unforeseen electronics shortages that have recently plagued the industry.

Along with the performance enhancements, the latest generation turbocharger will offer best-in-class performance for on-highway heavy-duty trucks coupled with improved fuel economy at key vehicle running points.

“CTT has incorporated exciting new technologies in our latest HE400VGT to help engine customers meet strict emissions requirements and reduce their total cost of ownership,” said Matthew Franklin, Director – Product Management & Marketing. As customers establish their strategies for upcoming emission regulations, CTT continues to build on the success of previous turbocharger launches to deliver innovative products that meet the challenges of our customers’ engine development needs without compromising on performance. 

Want to learn more about CTT’s products and technical innovation? Sign up for our quarterly newsletter today.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Rebuild masterstroke pays off for miners

belt buckle with text reading "Cummins 300th QSK60 MCRS Upgrade"

A masterstroke by Cummins engineers in Australia and the US has resulted in major cost reduction and environmental benefits for mining companies electing to rebuild their QSK60 engines under a special upgrade program.

The engineers focused on rebuild possibilities for the early generation QSK60, and how it could be upgraded to the latest diesel technology at overhaul time with no major change to the base 60-litre V16 design – a feat that eluded other engine manufacturers.

The key technology upgrade is to fuel injection, with the early unit injection system (HPI) replaced with the high-pressure modular common rail system (MCRS) that is now featured on all of Cummins’ latest generation high horsepower engines.

The 300th upgraded engine, rated at 2700 hp, recently rolled off the production line at the Cummins Master Rebuild Centre in Brisbane, highlighting yet another successful step in the evolution of the QSK60 and why it is the foremost high-horsepower diesel engine globally in mobile mining equipment.

“Reduced fuel consumption and longer life-to-overhaul are keys to lower total cost of ownership, and they were the initial aims behind the engineering of the upgrade program for the QSK60,” says Greg Field, mining business development manager for Cummins Asia Pacific.

“Innovation is at the core of Cummins’ long history, and it has certainly played its part in the QSK60 rebuild options we can offer our mining customers.”

The bottom line is impressive: Diesel particulate emissions are slashed by up to 63% through in-cylinder combustion technology with no aftertreatment. There’s also a plus for maintenance with less soot loading in the oil.

Fuel savings up to 5% are consistently reported in the field for significant greenhouse gas emissions reduction, while life-to-overhaul is extended by 10%, translating to fuel consumption of more than 4.0 million liters before rebuild is required.

Apart from the fuel system upgrade to MCRS, the QSK60 with single-stage turbocharging also features other Cummins innovations in combustion technology that were engineered for Tier 4 Final and Stage V emissions compliance, the most stringent off-highway emission standards in the world.

The rebuild upgrade package can be applied to the two variants of the QSK60 – one with single-stage turbocharging (known as ‘Advantage’) which can be rated from 1785 to 2700 hp, the other with two-stage turbocharging which can be rated at 2700, 2850 or 3000 hp.

The 300th upgraded QSK60 went to Boggabri Coal in the NSW Gunnedah Basin for installation in a Komatsu 930E haul truck. The engine has proved its worth in both coal and iron ore mining in Australia.

yellow QSK60 engine

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Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

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