The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), based in Machynlleth, in Wales has pioneered a new way of delivering energy to local communities via the UK’s first micro-grid.
CAT has been working towards solutions for sustainability for the past 35 years and this micro-grid technology is the latest of their developments. The mirco-grid draws its power from renewable energy sources as they are available (i.e when the wind is blowing or the sun shining) or from the national grid when they are not.
The idea behind the project is to decentralize the distribution of energy to vastly reduce energy wastage. Developing countries waste as much as 65% of the energy they generate via transmission lines and heat loss at the power stations themselves.
At the heart of the micro-grid technology is an intelligent electronic control system. This is coupled with an extensive battery storage unit. Under normal conditions this system takes it’s load from the renewable energy generating sources connected to it. The control system constantly monitors the load and demand on the entire system and exports any excess energy to the national grid. As and when the renewables cannot supply the demand on the system, energy is imported from the national grid.
If the national grid fails as the result of a transmission problem, the intelligent control system isolates the micro-grid so that all demand will run off the renewables or whatever is left in the batteries.
Jase Kuriakose, one of the engineers working on the project, said:
“There is a vital need and enormous opportunity to move towards a more sustainable decentralised system, which protects the climate and provides future generations with secure energy.”
The micro-gird will serve as a demonstration at the Centre for Alternative Technology and will be used for courses and consultancy purposes.