ORAD, through its subsidiary, Solarpower, has started building hybrid microgrid systems for the African and Israeli markets. The systems are based on a combination of solar systems, batteries and generators which together can provide an optimal electricity supply to places not connected to the national electricity infrastructure.
Microgrid systems (or minigrid, depending on their size) are off-grid electricity production and distribution systems. Many remote places in the developing countries have to rely on independent production and the inherent challenge is to produce maximum stable energy with minimum costs and pollution. The hybrid systems combine inexpensive and clean electricity production through solar panels with generators that start operating when the battery is empty after a long period without sunshine.
Avinoam Levi, Solarpower Chief of Technologies (CTO), Energy Division: “The hybrid combination reduces the initial investment costs because the system does not rely on solar output only and therefore its size is planned so that it will provide only 90-95% of the energy. This type of structure reduces the system size by 10%-20%. The generator works a very short part of the time, approx. 1%-3% only on the exceptional days when there is a considerable decrease in the solar output because of cloud cover. Because the generator is little used, there is cost-saving derived from the reduction of the frequent transport of the fuels and also of maintenance, which is considerably reduced, since it depends on the amount of use, which, because of maximum production of the energy from the sun, is minimal.”
The microgrid infrastructures serve in the Western world mainly during emergencies. In California there are such systems built on trucks designed for operation in crises when there is complete breakdown of the national electricity grid. In Israel minigrid systems are expected to be constructed in some IDF bases in the next few years.
ORAD has tested its technology including in its own buildings. In recent months, an entire floor was operated by an independent system disconnected from the national grid. Yossi Gofer, VP Sales and Marketing at ORAD: “The solar technology is not resting on its laurels, the world is moving towards renewable energies and to storage solutions and the Israeli developments are at the forefront of this trend.”