Photovoltaic (PV), or solar systems convert light into electricity. The key component in the system is a photovoltaic. Sunlight strikes the silicon wafer knocking electrons loose which can only flow in one direction, creating electrical current.
Energy is generated in direct current (DC), yet the grid and devices operate on alternating current (AC). The difference requires the energy to be converted using an inverter.
Large energy storage systems, or batteries, extend the value of intermittent energy resources such as wind and solar. Inexpensive but intermittent energy is stored when there is a surplus and released (dispatched) when the resource dips in production or when a substitute is needed for grid energy when it is most expensive.
Electric vehicle (EV) charging is a great addition to an on-site energy project. When added together with solar, batteries, and frequently new shade canopies, the impact of the project is felt and appreciated by all the employees and customers, not just the accountants.
A microgrid is an electrical system in which the facilities and equipment are connected to the grid, but that can also be isolated from the grid and still maintain power. Although microgrids can be designed to operate indefinitely, they are more often engineered to maintain power for a matter of hours, not days.
Fuel cells use a chemical reaction to extract energy from fuel instead of using combustion. Typically fuel cells will combine oxygen, natural gas, and a catalyst at high pressure between a cathode and anode.
UPS systems provide the ability to draw power from batteries while they're being charged. These units are used to protect critical devices that cannot lose power for even a very brief time, such as a life support system or a computer server.
Like a breaker box on your home, switchgear is what brings all of the technologies together. Switchgear is standard electrical equipment that contains switches, fuses and circuit breakers at the point of connection between a facility and the grid.
Onsite generation can be divided into two categories: Prime and Emergency Standby. Prime power generators involve far more annual run hours than a pure standby application. Standby generators typically operate for less than 100 hours per year, and operations can be sporadic.
Businesses are feeling rising pressure for corporate sustainability and climate action.
Younger generations are driving increased concern, looking to businesses to adopt renewables.
Onsite renewable energy generation can be an easy move for business and property owners. It offers both cost savings and carbon reduction.
The combination of solar and storage is an increasingly attractive pairing to make the most of both assets. For greater reliability, energy systems can be designed to isolate from the grid, forming a microgrid.
Architecture and Innovation Podcast
Interview by the Podfather, Tom Dioro of Stanford University