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Including Renewable Solar and Battery Storage in Your Microgrid

At Unison Energy, we customize microgrids to fit our clients’ goals. For some customers, renewable technologies like photovoltaic (PV) panels and battery storage systems are a valuable addition to their sustainable energy plan. Because renewables do not produce emissions, a typical installation will help facilities reduce their carbon footprint by as much as 10-20%.

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Top Benefits of a Renewable Solar Microgrid

It makes sense to implement on-site renewable solutions, such as solar, whenever possible. Renewable technologies are increasingly inexpensive, so they can be well worth the investment if they offer sufficient emissions reductions and energy cost savings.

Solar makes the largest impact on emissions during a facility’s daily usage peak. This is not only when the sun is shining, but also when the grid utilities ramp up their marginal generators, which are inefficient and more polluting. With a solar array in place, facilities can help reduce their use of grid electricity during these times.

Considerations for On-Site Solar Power

Power Needs: Depending upon your facility’s location, the highest solar generation during daytime is typically from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  For manufacturers with several production shifts — or facilities that operate 24/7 — solar alone is not a feasible on-site solution to power 100% of a site’s energy needs. Adding battery storage can store excess power, thereby reducing reliance on the utility grid.

Thermal Load: Renewables aren’t typically a feasible solution for supporting a site’s thermal loads, such as hot or chilled water and steam boilers. Around a third of a site’s carbon footprint may come from these loads. For industries that use high-heat production processes, or utilize large amounts of hot water or steam, solar coupled with a technology like combined heat and power may not only increase efficiency, but further reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.

Space Considerations: On-site solar requires an appropriate location that gets unobstructed sunshine throughout the day. Carports are possible, but logistically challenging and more expensive for an installation. Rooftops have a minimal client impact, but are not always able to support the solar load, and may be vulnerable to snow loads or hurricane winds. Ground mounts work when open fields are available, but not all sites have sufficient space.

Indeed, solar can require significant space. NREL estimates that solar requires about 8.1 acres or 352,836 sq/ft per MW of capacity with unobstructed sunshine throughout the day. Adding battery storage for 24/7 power support requires even more available space. A facility with 1 MW of baseload demand year-round would require a build-out of at least 8 MW of solar and 30 MWh of storage to cover nights and cloudy days.

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Take a Step Toward Carbon Neutral With Renewable Technology

In the push for carbon neutral, it makes sense for facilities to deploy renewables where possible as part of a comprehensive on-site power solution. Unison Energy can help install on-site solar for customers that have the available space. Depending on the state’s grid mix, this clean and inexpensive technology can cut a site’s emissions by 10-20% while supporting peak power usage times.

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