"Microgrid" power islands integrate renewables and provide decentralised energy solutions

‘Microgrid’ power islands integrate renewables and provide decentralised energy solution

The ABB factory in Johannesburg, South Africa, is powered by an innovative ‘microgrid’ solution, which ensures a continuous local power supply as well as a reduced reliance on fossil fuels. It provides resilient power to ensure a reliable, 24/7 supply of electricity to the 96,000 square meter Longmeadow facility, which is home to around 1,000 employees.

The breakthrough innovation combines solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery-based stabilization technology. This enables the company’s factory to operate as its own ‘power island’ in the event of planned or unplanned disturbances to the grid.

Following the installation of an innovative microgrid solution, global technology company ABB is saving over US$150,000 a year in fuel costs and cutting carbon emissions by around 1,000 tons a year.

Secure power islands

Microgrids are generally attached to the main power grid, but they can disconnect and operate autonomously when required. As well as providing a secure power supply, these so-called ‘power islands’ also open up the possibility of integrating locally-generated renewable energy directly into a company’s power supply.

South Africa has the highest electricity consumption in the sub-Saharan region, with demand continuing to outpace supply. Businesses across the country face disruptions due to regular power shortages. Typically, companies use backup diesel generators to cope with these shortfalls. The result is an increase in consumption of expensive and polluting fossil fuels.

Lead by example

Providing innovative power services to utility, industry, and transport & infrastructure customers is ABB’s core strength. So it makes sense for the company to lead by example, introducing pioneering solutions at its own facilities and then sharing that experience with its international customer base.

A central feature of the ABB microgrid solution  is the 750 kWp solar PV plant located on the facility’s rooftop. During normal operations, power from the PV system supplements electricity from the grid. The PV plant replaced two 800 kVa diesel-powered generators that were previously used for backup power.

Drawing on the latest lithium-ion technology, the 1 MVA/ 380 kWh PowerStoreTM Battery helps stabilize the microgrid against fluctuations in frequency and voltage by rapidly absorbing or injecting power. This provides a smooth transition from grid to back-up power during outages. It also enables peak shaving during peak consumption times.

Project benefits:

  • Cut annual diesel fuel consumption by 27 percent
  • Cut annual diesel generator use by 76 percent
  • Cut energy costs by US$150,000 per year or 33 percent, to US$460,000
  • Reduce overall carbon emissions by an estimated 1,000 tons per year

Further information


March 8, 2019