Severe weather events around the world in 2019 and early 2020, such as bushfires in Australia, the Amazon and California, resulted in many communities in these vulnerable and affected locations experiencing power outages for days and even weeks at a time.
In times of crisis, it is critical for community facilities such as emergency services, hospitals, and evacuation shelters to remain operational.
There is a need to plan forward to minimise future impacts on vulnerable communities by such severe weather events. Ensuring energy resilience for communities should be a top priority for governments at all levels.
However, how can this resilience be achieved?
Planet Ark Power, an Australian clean energy technology company, has addressed this all-important challenge and developed one of the critical components to achieve energy resilience for communities during natural disasters and over the course of their post-event recovery phase.
By building rooftop solar microgrids powered by Planet Ark Power’s eleXsys®, this resilience can be delivered.
What is a solar microgrid? According to RenewEconomy, a microgrid is “…any localised network that can operate in an islanded or off-grid mode when there is an upstream blackout”. A solar microgrid is powered by solar PV energy and can be supplemented by battery energy storage systems and is preferably connected to the electricity grid.
Current policies, regulations and economic models reduce the viability of adopting microgrids. However, eleXsys® is a globally applicable technology solution that can overcome these barriers, maximising savings and long-term environmental benefits.
For example, any community infrastructure with a large rooftop such as an emergency services facility, hospital, school, sports and recreation centre or evacuation shelter could be configured to operate as a solar microgrid.
Fitted with rooftop solar PV, a battery energy storage system and eleXsys®, the facility can be equipped for future natural disasters while regularly providing benefits to the community.
Using advanced power electronics and artificial intelligence, eleXsys® overcomes the engineering challenges of creating a microgrid that can be connected to the local electricity network and export excess solar energy (grid-interactive, export-enabled microgrid) for wider community use.
This is what makes eleXsys® a unique and internationally award winning solution to the challenge of connecting and integrating microgrids into local energy networks.
What are the daily, ongoing benefits of solar microgrids?
- By producing on-site green energy, the community facilities can reduce their energy expenditure, lowering their operational costs.
- eleXsys® enhances the battery performance for improved outcomes.
- Surplus clean energy can be sold back to the electricity grid seamlessly using eleXsys®, producing a long-term income for the facility outside of times of interrupted energy supplies.
- For investors, or those funding the microgrid, this ensures a positive, stable return on investment due to a reliable and forecasteable income stream as well as a high internal rate of return. The returns on wholesale trading of electricity is optimised through eleXsys®’ unique AI software, increasing confidence in funding this new clean energy asset.
- These community facilities can also act as charging stations for Electric Vehicles (EVs) in the community.
eleXsys® operates like a ‘brain’ in the microgrid. It manages critical operation of the microgrid while ensuring the available built environment is put to its best use. This ensures generation of adequate solar energy on-site to satisfy the needs of essential services and the broader community.
To find out how eleXsys™ can enable one of the largest humanitarian aid organizations, Direct Relief’s Headquarters in California maximise their economic, environmental, and resilience benefits, go to: energycentral.com/c/gr/direct-relief-solar-microgrid-case-study
Alongside other partners, Planet Ark Power is currently working with The Clean Coalition to deliver a 100% resilient, renewables-driven Community Microgrid in California. Find out more: clean-coalition.org/community-microgrids/goleta-load-pocket/
 Start-Up Energy Transition Award Winner in the category Intelligent Grids, Platforms and Cybersecurity awarded by the German Energy Agency (dena) and the World Energy Council.