Supporting sustainable, clean energy for remote communities with Smart Microgrid Controllers

Supporting sustainable, clean energy for remote communities with Smart Microgrid Controllers

Remote communities around the globe, often not connected to an urban electrical grid, typically rely on costly diesel-generated electricity.

15 December 2021

Coastal Infrastructure Energy and Resources National and Local Government Water Management

Remote communities around the globe, often not connected to an urban electrical grid, typically rely on costly diesel-generated electricity.

The cost of diesel power generation (10:1 cost above an urban grid) is quite significant to these communities.

As an example, remote communities in Canada collectively consume more than 682 million litres of diesel fuel every year - two-thirds for heating and one-third for electricity needs. Ref: Pembina Institute report - Tracking diesel reduction progress in remote communities.

In addition, the associated increases in greenhouse gases (GHG’s), as well as negative impacts to health, are prompting communities to look for better solutions. A lack of stable and cost-effective energy is often a limiting factor to the potential growth of these communities.

As a result, many remote communities have developed their own local microgrids, typically based around a diesel generator. Increasingly, some of these grids are beginning to include a variety of renewable energy sources (solar/wind/tidal/battery etc.) to support their intentions to lower their electricity costs while reducing their dependency on diesel and lowering GHG’s.

The addition of renewable energy sources, while having an immediate benefit of GHG reduction and energy cost savings, also introduce significant integration challenges with regard to the control and optimisation of the power system.

Microgrids defined: A microgrid is a self-sufficient energy system that serves a discrete geographic footprint, such as a remote community or industrial setting, which may be lacking a stable connection to an urban power grid.

To be a dependable electrical source, a microgrid must effectively control the power supply provided to the community. This becomes especially difficult based on the intermittent availability of renewable energy derived from renewable energy sources such as solar or wind. As well, the challenge of predicting how much energy these systems will provide at any given moment (as they fluctuate) increases the complexity and scope of what the microgrid must be able to manage.

The impact of unstable energy to a remote community can be catastrophic when critical infrastructure are interrupted for even a short amount of time, for example, water purification or
emergency response communications.

We recognised this energy challenge, and created an innovative solution, the BMT Smart Microgrid Controller, developed for small, remote communities. The solution utilises commercial off-the-shelf components, along with a series of control parameters which effectively manage the energy optimisation of the microgrid. The control parameters operate as a grid controller that efficiently balances the output from each energy source to support the required loads and users of the grid.

The BMT Smart Microgrid Controller is designed to efficiently manage and integrate an unlimited number of renewable energy sources in a fully off-grid remote microgrid. The integration of additional renewable energy sources is easily handled by modifying the control parameters versus expensive hardware changes.

In addition, instead of utilising a separate custom (and costly) configuration for each community, a “standardised set of configurations” may be employed for many communities to quickly bring the microgrid online, and at lower costs. This approach, combined with core operational algorithms to maintain grid stability as the generators and loads fluctuate, is destined to be a winning solution in this space.

The market for the BMT Smart Microgrid Controller is significant for potential customers in remote land based, island based, mining or industrial settings. The global Microgrid market exceeded $6 billion USD in 2020 and is anticipated to grow over 27% CAGR between 2021 and 2027 to $33 Billion USD. Source: Global Market Insights.

We are well along in the development of the BMT Smart Microgrid Controller and expect to have a commercial product available in 2022.

The BMT Smart Grid Controller innovation was developed by the BMT team in Canada, including Geoff Lowe, Caroline Kateme-Amot, Kate Millard, Graeme Thompson, Mark Butler and Martin Moody.

Meet the experts

Martin Moody

Principal Electrical Engineering Specialist

Martin Moody

Principal Electrical Engineering Specialist

Martin Moody is a Principal Electrical Engineer at BMT, based in Ottawa, Canada. Martin holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) with honors from the University of Adelaide and a Master of Engineering (Sustainable Electrical Energy Systems) with first class honors from the Technological University Dublin. He has 19 years’ experience as a marine electrical engineer.

Previously he has designed electrical systems for naval submarines
and ships, rescue submarines, hovercrafts, ferries and coast guard
vessels in Australia, Asia, the UK and Canada. Working with BMT, Martin has designed and tested a common microgrid controller for multiple remote communities. The controller is part of a wider task that Martin is leading to develop a common microgrid interface
unit for isolated communities.

Share this

Related content