Sustainable Energy Options

Renewable energy can take many forms, including microgrids, microhydro, combined heat and power systems, and more.

SAGE Energy can provide support for your sustainable energy project, on a small scale for your cottage or on a larger scale for your neighbourhood or community. Whether you’re looking for a turnkey installation or you need support for your DIY project, we’re here to help.

Microgrid

Self-sufficient locally-controlled energy, with the option for utility connection.

Microhydro

Low-tech and effective, microhydro can be cost-effective and reliable.

Combined Heat & Power

Cogeneration or Combined Heat & Power (CHP) systems. Advanced energy efficiency.

Microgrid

Local energy with control capability. Self-sufficiency with the option for utility connection. The following explanation is taken from an article on the US Department of Energy website.

microgrid-diagram

Graphic from www.microgridinstitute.org.

How does a microgrid work?

To understand how a microgrid works, you first have to understand how the grid works.

The grid connects homes, businesses and other buildings to central power sources, which allow us to use appliances, heating/cooling systems and electronics. But this interconnectedness means that when part of the grid needs to be repaired, everyone is affected.

This is where a microgrid comes in. A microgrid generally operates while connected to the grid, but importantly, it breaks off and operates on its own using local energy generation in times of crisis like storms or power outages, or for other reasons.

A microgrid is powered by distributed generators, batteries, and/or renewable resources like solar panels. Depending on how it’s fueled and how its requirements are managed, a microgrid might run indefinitely.

How does a microgrid connect to the grid?

A microgrid connects to the grid at a point of common coupling that maintains voltage at the same level as the main grid unless there is some sort of problem on the grid or other reason to disconnect. A switch separates the microgrid from the main grid automatically or manually, and it then functions as an island.

Why would a community choose to connect to microgrids?

A microgrid not only provides backup for the grid in case of emergencies, but also be used to cut costs, or connect to a local resource that is too small or unreliable for traditional grid use. A microgrid allows communities to be more energy independent and, in some cases, more environmentally friendly.

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Cogeneration or CHP

Cogeneration or Combined Heat & Power (CHP) systems. Advanced energy efficiency.

chp-cogeneration

Graphic from energycenter.org. Please note efficiencies vary by type of system used.

The basics

Cogeneration, combined heat and power (CHP), is the simultaneous production of electrical and thermal energy from one fuel source. The waste heat from electricity generation is recovered and used for applications such as space heating and cooling, water heating, and industrial process heat. By making use of the waste from one process in the production of the other, substantial gains in energy efficiency can be realized.

A cogeneration facility is comprised of two basic parts: a power generator and a heat recovery system. A range of technologies can be used to achieve cogeneration, including steam turbines, gas turbines, reciprocating engines, microturbines, fuel cells, and Sterling engines.

Who can use it?

Cogeneration can be implemented at a range of scales, from large scale systems serving communities or large industrial complexes, to independent energy supplies for hospitals or universities.

Most of the world’s electricity is generated by rotating machinery that is driven by the combustion of fuels. As a result, cogeneration systems have enormous potential for growth.

Who’s using it now?

According to powerforthefuture.ca, In 2011 there were 6.5 GW in electricity capacity in Canada. Alberta has the most cogeneration capacity in Canada, the majority of which serves the oil and gas industry. Cogeneration in Ontario serves a broader range of industries, including manufacturing, forest products, hospitals, and universities. The majority of cogeneration capacity in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and the Maritimes serves the forest products industry.

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Microhydro

Modern microhydro equipment comes from proven technology based on designs that have changed very little over the decades. Pelton and turgo wheels, the typical spinning water-wheel component, were invented in 1870 and 1919, respectively. The point is, this technology has proven its reliability and functionality with more than a century of performance.

microhydro

Low tech

Compared to photovoltaics, which can be considered high-tech, microhydro systems can arguably be considered low-tech. Of course, the actual cost varies significantly from site to site, and from system to system, and as with any renovation or installation project you should do your research; for your specific property, the costs may be significantly higher than you expected.

What does it take?

Very few residential properties have a hydro resource to tap. But if you have it, hydro can be a cost-effective and reliable renewable electricity source with a modest investment.

Hydropower comes from a combination of vertical drop (head) and water flow. It takes both in reasonable quantities to make meaningful amounts of energy. If your stream only has a little head, you’ll need a lot of flow. If your stream only has a little flow, you’ll need a lot of head.

Without reliable measurements, any microhydro dreams you have may not come true. If this is a DIY project for you, here are some research resources or you to get you started, from HomePower magazine (one of our faves):

Microhydro Myths and Misconceptions

Microhydro: Measure First to Reap the Bounty

If you’re pretty sure you’ve got the resource and you want to explore it further, we’d be happy to help. Please contact us to arrange a site assessment.

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