The Growing Business Case for Microgrids: Start Strong
Building a microgrid requires specialised technical know-how, as well as the essential support to facilitate progression of the project.
With the issues of rising energy demand and in turn costs, as well as environmental sustainability changing how industries and businesses operate, renewable energy is becoming a bigger topic across continents and cultures.
In Southeast Asia, more remote communities and businesses are becoming part of the global conversation and starting to take renewable energy more seriously. Not coincidentally, bolstered by economic and population growth, power demand in the region has increased by 80 per cent since 2000, according to the International Energy Agency. With a population of nearly 700 million, Southeast Asia is made up of some 20,000 islands, with most not having grid power, or access to adequate and reliable electricity. Diesel is typically relied on as a source of electricity generation, and with it comes pollution, health hazards and logistical burdens – but this is no longer a dirty little secret as more and more are becoming aware of the problem and looking at clean energy alternatives.
Enter microgrids – localised power grids that are independent systems or can be synced with the main grid. A solution for communities without the access to electricity, those who rely on expensive diesel generation, or those who face brownouts, microgrids provide a way to adopt renewable energy. Beyond mitigating impact on the environment, there are also benefits such as reduced electricity costs and increased self-sufficiency and energy security (less reliance on external factors), that contribute to economic growth.
While they address certain needs, microgrids are a niche specialty in the renewables sector. Microgrid projects are a big undertaking, with great benefits but also significant risks if not executed properly. It is crucial to get things right from the beginning, to ensure project bankability as well as long-term feasibility.
At this point, there are only a handful of players in the market with the knowledge and experience on deploying microgrids. Furthermore, microgrid technology is quickly and constantly evolving with new innovations and best practices are always changing. This means that it can be difficult to find the relevant technical expertise in this specialised area of renewable energy.
There are a number of factors in a project to consider, such as matching technologies to the application or situation. Location, space, logistics, and environment need to be considered – humidity levels, saltiness of the air, temperature and other ambient conditions are part of the specificities.
Often enough, there’s also the question of how to integrate a microgrid with an existing power system. For example, if there is an existing diesel generator system, the appropriate diesel generator controllers that can sync with the new solar and battery systems need to be installed.
Regardless of the project requirements, choosing the right components that work well together can pose a challenge – from battery controllers to monitoring systems, there are many different ones in the market.
As with anything, specialisation means resources are focussed which translates to cost effectiveness. For a multinational energy company developing a microgrid in Southeast Asia, for example, engaging a local microgrid specialist consultant often provides more value at a lower cost than utilising in-house resources.
Before a project commences, preliminary actions such as feasibility studies and system design are essential to eventual project success. This includes the production of accurate reports, data and specifications required for approvals, to facilitate the progression of the project. The initial outlays related to the technical aspects of project development can be minimised – ideal at this juncture – by working with an expert that provides the standardised engineering services. Beyond that, services to consider include project financing and construction and commissioning management.
Optimal and Unbiased Solution
Going with a solution provider not affiliated to any brand, manufacturer or supplier safeguards an objective point of view, to propose the best solution without favouring specific products or components. This ensures an optimised microgrid that meets the specific site conditions and constraints and minimises the cost of power generation, with quality components selected from the plethora available.
In an industry where very few hold the requisite knowledge, the likelihood of costly mistakes is high. Plenty of risks – from fly-by-night contractors and low quality systems to untested components and interoperability issues which all result in financial liabilities – can be eliminated by selecting a trustworthy solution provider. It’s important to make smart choices at every stage of a microgrid project, in order to reap the enormous pay-offs.
Canopy Power – A Microgrid Specialist
Canopy Power is a Singapore-based microgrid specialist, providing engineering services in this niche sector of renewable energy. Consisting of a team of experts, the company draws on its fundamental experience in building microgrids across Asia Pacific to share the knowledge required to understand, design and execute microgrids.
Canopy Power offers a range of modular services to suit different project needs and types, having the flexibility to cater to different levels, whether it is a local, regional or international context. The company works with developers, financiers and independent power producers.
Canopy Power has recently rendered services to Nippon Koei, who is building several village microgrids in Myanmar under a program by the Department of Rural Development (DRD), as well as to several large developers in Indonesia for feasibility studies. Other partners include Mase Holdings, an investment holding company, for island electrification projects in the Philippines, and Total Solar Distributed Generation for the project development of powering Koh Rong Sanloem island in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
Canopy Power itself has also successfully built six microgrids in Indonesia and Myanmar, which it operates, and is currently constructing two more in Malaysia and Cambodia.
About Canopy Power
Founded in 2016, Canopy Power is a technology provider specialising in independent microgrids based on renewable energy. The Singapore company is a one-stop shop offering services for feasibility, design, Engineering, Procurement and Construction, financing and Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of complete, fully customised microgrid systems. Canopy Power employs in-house developed smart microgrid technology, along with the highest quality renewable energy components to offer robust solutions that provide clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity. In combination with its specialised microgrid finance product and long-term O&M offering, Canopy Power enables remote communities and businesses to unlock the potential for significant and sustainable economic growth.