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Microgrids Help Businesses Shave Energy Costs and Bolster Aging Infrastructure

At the end of a heavily wooded, sparse industrial park here sits the North American headquarters and R&D center for Schneider Electric, which earlier this month unveiled its own campus power microgrid.

The microgrid for the global energy management conglomerate is expected to produce 520,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, or 10 percent of Schneider Electric's power needs. It's also expected to reduce its energy costs by 20 percent.

Perhaps more importantly, the microgrid incorporates a natural gas generator as an anchor resource, allowing solar panels to operate during grid outages to maintain critical operations. In the event of a power outage, a lithium-ion battery storage system would provide up to 100KW of power for an hour.

The battery storage system can also help shave the power Schneider Electric draws from the local utility during peak operating hours, enabling it to avoid costly fees for exceeding its pre-set demand limits.

While the microgrid does serve some of Schneider Electric's own power needs, it's also part of the company's R&D efforts to create more sophisticated smart microgrid technology to sell as a service to customers who must rely on an aging, less-reliable national grid infrastructure and rising electricity costs.

A microgrid is a form of distributed energy generation that can function independently from the traditional, centralized regional power grid; it can enable towns, small cities or corporations to develop their own energy sources and power storage systems (via lithium-ion or flow batteries), distribute that energy and even sell excess power back to local utilities.

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