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Power generator with battery allows growers to go off-grid

Rolls-Royce offers with its MTU microgrids the company's first eco-friendly and on-site power generation solution suitable for agricultural applications. These autonomous power grids combine renewable energy sources with battery storage and gas and diesel generators using a microgrid control system developed by Rolls-Royce, thereby reducing CO2 emissions in power generation. Farmers also lose their dependency on the public grid and can integrate existing energy sources such as photovoltaics or biogas plants, which offers financial benefits. Rolls-Royce will be presenting its microgrid solutions for farming applications at the agricultural trade show Agritechnica from 10 to 16 November.

“Many farmers already have large-scale photovoltaic or biogas plants and are therefore ideally equipped to use a microgrid. Our MTU EnergyPack, the battery container, and a smart energy management system allow the various energy sources to be optimally deployed – both technically and in terms of cost,” explains Cordelia Thielitz, Vice President Microgrids at Rolls-Royce.

The components of a Microgrid can be adapted according to the requirements. The possible applications in agriculture are manifold and offer advantages in terms of return-on-investment (ROI), decentralisation and decarbonisation. Here are three examples:

Prime power from biomass
Instead of continually pumping all the electrical power won from a biogas plant into the public grid, it can be stored in the MTU-EnergyPack. The smart energy management system then ensures that this energy is only fed into the public grid at times of peak demand, when prices are at their highest.

Self-sufficient greenhouses
To flourish and grow, crops cultivated in greenhouses need temperature levels and light exposure to be kept as constant as possible. The heat and power required to achieve that constitute major cost factors for any farmer.

But with combined power generation using a photovoltaic installation and MTU generator linked up to a battery and master controller, the greenhouse can operate independently round-the-clock without recourse to the public grid. Electrical energy generated by photovoltaics and a gas-powered CHP module during the day can be fed into the batteries, where it is subsequently available for lighting the crops and other electrical consumers. Heat from the CHP module is used to heat the greenhouses while CO2 recovered from its exhaust emissions promotes plant growth.

Profitability in times of change
For farmers in Germany who generate power for the public grid using photovoltaics and biogas plants and are subsidized under the German Renewable Energies Act (EEG), the microgrid can be a very worthwhile investment. This is because subsidy rates are falling, with many subsidy schemes soon to reach the end of their twenty-year term. Furthermore, operators of larger-scale PV plants also have to pay an EEG levy on the power they consume themselves.

Integrating these systems with batteries and a smart controller creates new cost benefits for farmers, who reduce their CO2 output at the same time.

“Integrating existing renewable energy sources as a microgrid creates an independent, reliable supply of energy which is gentle on the environment and saves money. For a not inconsiderable number of farmers, microgrids can open up new earning potential,” said Armin Fürderer, head of customer solutions in the power generation section at Rolls-Royce.

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