The idea of light coming on at the flick of a switch is not as ubiquitous as one might think. Many millions of people, including 600 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone, live in rural areas without access to the grid.
Even many urban areas lack consistently reliable grid supplies. For these
people, renewable power offers an increasingly popular and established route to homegrown, low-cost energy. However, renewables such as solar PV and onshore wind are inherently intermittent and cannot be relied upon for continuous power supplies.
The only way to ensure these renewable assets can provide electricity around
the clock is to pair them with fossil-fuel based generation, for example from diesel gensets, or energy storage, or both. This combination of assets, connected to a limited electricity distribution network, is what’s called a microgrid or minigrid. With a growing trend to minimise carbon emissions, fossil fuel is increasingly
being shunned in favour of energy storage in microgrid designs. Batteries, furthermore, represent an increasingly flexible and cost-effective way of balancing microgrid generation and demand to provide reliable energy. This brief guide looks at how battery storage can deliver value in a microgrid setting, whether the location is a rural environment, an urban community or, as if often the case, an island.