Inside photos: How a microgrid really works

From Apple's big bet on solar to Google's latest wind deal, the last few weeks have witnessed a wave of activity when it comes to scaling up renewable energy.

But sprawling solar and wind farms are only one side of the coin, as demonstrated late last year at GreenBiz's annual VERGE event held during October at the Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco, California.

Another area of energy innovation with potential to help inspire new models of renewable energy delivery: microgrids.

Sure, it’s easy to talk about power generation using renewable fuels and microgrids — but it’s a whole separate challenge to get these idealized systems to work. But that's exactly what Colorado smart grid and distributed energy company Spirae did to power the conference.

Don Wright, applications engineer at Spirae, showed me how each of the microgrid components worked. As it is on any grid, the electricity flow began with generation spearheaded by Berkeley, California's All Power Labs. Both of the generators used ran on biomass-based renewable fuels.

Energy then flowed through a load resistor, distribution and even to a power storage system provided by energy storage company Stem. The microgrid supplied all power for the VERGE main stage, audio and visual equipment, and for all the vendors in the exhibition room.

Click through the slideshow for a tour of the system in action, then stay tuned for more on microgrids and renewable energy at this year's VERGE 2015 coming up in October.