A DC Microgrid is an innovative approach to stand-alone renewable energy systems that is much cheaper and more reliable than typical approaches to off-grid living. This system was developed at Living Energy Farm, an intentional community and environmental education center in Louisa, Virginia whose Microgrid has successfully provided for the energy needs of up to a dozen people since 2011.
DC Microgrids are effective because they work with the strengths of renewable energy, rather than trying to use it to replace fossil fuels as a bulk commodity. The emphasis is on designing systems to meet specific energy needs. For this reason we like to describe the DC Microgrid as a permaculture approach to energy systems.
A DC Microgrids looks different for each site, depending on wind and solar resources, local climate and energy needs, etc. But the design principles remain the same everywhere. These principles are:
1. Maximize conservation, efficiency and insulation. Solar energy is only useful when demand is minimized.
2. Minimize battery size by storing energy in forms other than electricity. The bulk of the stored energy in a DC Microgrid takes forms such as a hot or cold thermal mass, pressurized water, or bio-gas.
3. Operate high-demand electrical appliances as daylight drive only. In daylight drive systems, DC (direct current) motors and resistive loads are wired directly to photovoltaic panels with no batteries or other hardware involved. These appliances are used only during the day.
4. Keep electrical hardware as simple and durable as possible. A DC Microgrid side steps inverters and AC (alternating current) electricity, and uses nickel iron batteries, a non-toxic technology that lasts 40 years or more.
Click here for more details about the DC Microgrid we have at Living Energy Farm.
Learn more about the advantages of DC Microgrids over grid-tie and conventional off-grid technologies.
Wondering who else is using DC Microgrid technologies? Click here to read about how we distributed Iron Sun Cabin kits free of charge to families in the Navajo and Hopi reservations.