Microgrids in the 21st century power system

Microgrids are evolving from basically a standby power system in case of an outage for an individual customer, to fast becoming an integral component of today’s power system. This is being assisted by the falling costs of solar and storage, along with advances in control automation technology. Microgrids can contribute to the integration of renewable energies and support energy security and grid resiliency, especially in extreme weather conditions, with applications in areas such as off-grid locations, community initiatives, and city centres.

In the US, microgrids are still in the early stage of deployment, even in the most advanced markets. Current changes in the regulatory framework look towards a restructured distribution system in which portions of a utility’s service area will be served by microgrids configured around locally sourced generation from distributed energy resources, under the control of a distribution system operator.

A new white paper published by the US National Electrical Manufacturers Association reveals full controllable independent microgrids interconnected with DC links could allow for full decoupling from the AC electric power system and facilitate the segmentation of the distributions system by 2025. According to the white paper, regulatory issues are the single most important barrier to microgrid deployment, as both independent entities and as systems integrated within distribution utilities.

As well as the regulatory issues, the white paper identifies several technology needs. These include improvements and price reductions in the current power electronic conversion and control technology, sensor and communication technology, protection and grid integration systems and generation from renewable energy resources electric storage systems. To reach the 2025 vision, the white paper also presents a possible deployment scenario.

For more information on the 2025 vision for microgrids, see full article.