Anyone hearing the term “microgrid” has their own interpretation of what the word means. To the layperson, the definition may be as simple as knowing that it is smaller than a traditional-sized energy grid. They may understand that a microgrid is needed because a facility is located too far away from a main power grid to efficiently obtain the continuous energy required to power their systems.
For those in the energy industry, when designing systems, the definition can be much more complex and fraught with further questions. Some may ask why a microgrid is necessary at a particular location. Others might question what kind of energy is collected (solar or wind) and how it is being stored. Still, others may ask how this energy is being controlled and distributed. No matter the questions, engineers are looking for microgrids that provide stability, reliability, flexibility, and efficiency for various locations and challenges. Companies such as Ageto Energy not only answer these questions but also offer additional value that people are looking for in microgrid solutions.
With renewable energy, Ageto always comes back to one word, “simple.” Working toward its mission to accelerate the global adoption of renewable energy, it simplifies the integration and control of off-grid, microgrid power systems. The company reduces complexity and integrates power systems for a future of growth with low-carbon emissions. One way they have done this is by coordinating all the elements of a microgrid and placing them into consolidated systems. Known as the Ageto ARC microgrid controller, this option allows users to monitor and manage energy resources to ensure everyone gets the power they need.
The ARC microgrid controller has been defined as “the brain of your microgrid system, seamlessly integrating, optimizing, and managing diverse energy resources.” The interface makes it easy for the system operator to have full visibility of their system, energy resource health, and performance data. To deliver the reliable power they were looking for, especially in the case of off-grid systems, the Ageto team needed to make sure that the individual components that made up the ARC controller system performed to direct specifications. “We have designed our controller to operate continuously for years with no downtime, and we look for products that can parallel that,” said Ageto COO Mike Murray.
To do this, Ageto searched for specific parts that would make constructing their ARC controller as easy as it was to use. Initially, he was looking for just terminal blocks, but Murray and his team found a company that provided the connectivity he needed and the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) the ARC controller required to bridge communication. WAGO, a company known for its CAGE CLAMP spring pressure technology and automation solutions, stepped in to provide Ageto with the flexibility and performance required for the project.
The initial solution was a bridge between an existing battery storage system that used a Controller Area Network (CAN) communication protocol. However, the Ageto control system needed a Modbus TCP/IP input. The WAGO engineering team provided a simple, scalable PLC with a CAN Master module and Modbus TCP port for communication with the ARC control panel. With this architecture, Ageto could monitor the battery requirements (voltage, charge, and temperature), and write a small routine for actual control of the battery storage system. This system acts as Ageto’s control interface into the storage system onsite.
According to Jim Ratcliffe, Regional Sales Manager for WAGO, “The Ageto system is based on a model that allows them to be energy resource agnostic, offering their customers multiple integration options across numerous existing onsite assets.” Knowing exactly what was required, a range of products could be tested by Ageto before deciding. “They were looking for a Controller Area Network (CAN) solution that they could install remotely in an existing battery storage system, allowing them to communicate back to their own control platform,” said Ratcliffe.
After testing, Murray knew that WAGO was the company they wanted to go with. Ageto used terminal blocks, the CAN-based PLCs, and 221 wire-splicing connectors to customize their ARC microgrid controller. They also used these products in their Battery Management System (BMS) to help with temperature monitoring and load capacity challenges.
Today, Ageto’s ARC microgrid controller can be found in locations such as The Headwaters Center in Winter Park, Colorado. Boasting Colorado’s first off-the-grid gathering place, Headwaters hosts weddings, celebrations, concerts as well as educational opportunities. Most of the energy used in this Civil-War-era facility is solar energy. That energy is then stored and used from onsite batteries.
Performing under the most demanding conditions, the ARC microgrid controller provides Headwaters and other users the peace of mind knowing that they will get reliable, resilient energy from an independent source. The company’s unique interface, performance monitoring, and real-time controls make its microgrid solutions straightforward and easy to use.
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