Baseline Technical Briefs

Building a Microgrid Using Natural Gas Generators

Microgrids can be configured in many ways from one or multiple power-generating sources.

They are also capable of supplying power in different operating capacities such as a grid backup in emergencies or as a demand response system to minimize cost and optimize efficiency of a larger power supply system. A microgrid can also enable communities and businesses to be independent of the utility for electricity and often produce power in a more environmentally responsible manner than the utility. Natural gas generators are an excellent means of producing low-carbon, reliable power in a microgrid configuration. To learn how, let’s start with some microgrid fundamentals.

What is a Microgrid?

A microgrid is a self-sufficient energy system that manages distributed energy resources (DERs) and the interconnected electrical loads within a defined electrical boundary of a discrete geographical footprint such as a business center, hospital complex, research facility, educational campus, etc. Distributed energy resources refer to small on-site energy generation units that can be grid-connected or work independently. A microgrid can therefore work in two modes (click each to learn more):

Grid-Connected mode works in parallel with the grid as a single controllable entity. It is connected to the grid at the point of common coupling at which the grid-level voltage is maintained. A switch is also installed that can operate automatically or manually and disconnect the microgrid from the main grid when required.

When a microgrid is disconnected from the main grid, it works independently in islanded mode to meet the power requirements of the connected loads. This enables the microgrid to supply customers with continuous power regardless of outages and interruptions with the utility or other nearby power grids.

Intelligent microgrids use advanced controllers that act as the brain of the system. These controllers manage the generators, battery storage (if available) and the load while precisely maintaining a balance between supply and demand. The intelligent control system not only ensures system reliability but also optimizes efficiency by determining when to generate electricity, when to store it, and if connected to a utility grid also manages when to buy for the most cost-effective operation.

Designing a Microgrid with Natural Gas Generators

As discussed earlier, the DERs in a microgrid can be renewable energy resources like wind or solar, fossil fuel-powered generators, or a combination of DERs. Even with advanced battery storage systems, islanded microgrids consisting of 100% renewable energy sources are not typically feasible as prime power systems due to large land use and cost infeasibility. However, pairing renewables with natural gas generators can help bridge that gap for customers wanting the lowest-possible emissions system that will continue to provide reliable power when wind, solar, and storage has been depleted.

As a low-carbon, reliable and affordable electricity option with the ability to generate power twenty-four seven, regardless of weather conditions, natural gas generators prove themselves time and again to be the optimal choice. In recent years, the adoption rate of natural gas across all power classes has seen an exponential increase and taken a significant share of the market away from comparable diesel power systems.

To form a microgrid, mobile natural gas generators are set up onsite near the load, paralleled together with both power and communication cables, and tied into distribution panels for simple connection to the load. Gaseous generators can be fueled by a variety of natural gas fuels including liquified natural gas (LNG), compressed natural gas (CNG), propane, and associated petroleum gas (APG) from a wellhead.

Closing Thoughts

Microgrids powered by natural gas generators are a highly reliable, low-carbon, low-cost source of electricity that can be easily organized and set up to supply large demand loads. At Baseline, we have designed and constructed many microgrids solely with natural gas generators that are fully reliable and independent of the main grid, require zero permanent infrastructure, and zero capital expenditure from our customers. No matter if you need a supplemental or prime power source to meet all load demands on a short or long-term basis, Baseline’s experienced operations team can have you up and running within a matter of weeks and provides ongoing maintenance and support to ensure your power system remains the best decision you could have made and the easiest to make once again.