Microgrids play an important role in the UK’s journey to net zero carbon. They optimise energy costs, introduce more energy from renewable sources and improve the resilience of the main grid. Reaping the full benefits of a microgrid solution requires careful consideration of all the components required. Here, Keith Brown, Technical Manager at DiPerk Power Solutions, the UK and Ireland’s Perkins expert, explores the role of engines and engine maintenance in microgrid solutions.
The recent emergence of affordable micro-generation technologies has given households and businesses the ability to generate their own energy and reduce their reliance on the national grid. It allows residences and commercial facilities to generate power using renewable sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines and combine them with advanced battery storage to create their own microgrid, selling any unused energy back to the grid.
A microgrid’s formation will depend on the application and its power requirements. For example, an industrial facility may have peaks and troughs of productivity throughout the day, requiring different levels of power to run production. In residential properties, homeowners want to ensure that they always have power for everyday uses, such as electricity and heating water. While renewables are a clean and affordable source of energy, they might not be reliable as a power generation solution like a genset.
Incorporating energy storage or a generator into a microgrid solution ensures that the facility or building will always have power. Reduced sun exposure, low wind levels and unpredictable weather are just some of the factors that can reduce the consistency of the energy supply. Storing unused energy or installing engine powered generators can guarantee reliable power when renewable energy cannot. A generator provides near instant power to the application if a facility requires an immediate boost to meet production and stores of renewable energy cannot fulfil requirements, to prevent any interruptions to power generation.
As a microgrid is typically built for a specific application, taking the time to choose appropriate components is vital. When setting out an energy strategy, best practice is to think long term, considering how to account for both the present position and planned future situation.
The role of the generator will also determine which engine is needed. The engine can be used to produce electricity, help send it back to the grid or be used as part of a combined heat and power (CHP) system to reuse the heat produced during power generation. An engines expert can assess the energy strategy and microgrid plan to make a judgement call on what engine will best support the rest of the system.
Up and running
Keeping the engine healthy ensures that the residence or facility always has access to reliable power — leaving the engine unattended increases the risk of faults that lead to engine failure and downtime.
Daily and weekly scheduled checks are an important part of engine maintenance. Carrying out daily routine checks, on fluids including coolant level and oil level, and system components like fuel system primary filters and v-belts, allows operators to both prevent and detect common faults. Operators can also check the fuel tank for water or sediment and check if draining is necessary weekly or every 50 service hours, depending on how frequently they use the generator.
Operators can benefit from monitoring technology to minimise the risk of costly downtime. For example, the Smart Cap can be fitted to any Perkins engine to monitor its performance in real time and alert operators to any abnormal data. Regular fluid analysis can also identify any issues with oil, fuel or coolant that might not be detected during daily checks.
As more of us aim to reduce our environmental impact and renewable technologies become more accessible and affordable, microgrids are becoming an appealing alternative to the grid. Collaborating with an engine specialist will help ensure that the microgrid offers the reliable power required to the application running. For expert help in specifying and maintaining your Perkins engine, visit www.diperk.com.