As we move to a more sustainable future, how we generate, transmit, and distribute energy is shifting. Microgrids are local electrical grids that act as a single controllable entity capable of connecting to a traditional centralized grid. Microgrids are typically designed to increase energy production and distribution reliability, resiliency, and flexibility serving local critical loads. As a result, they’re projected to play a role in the transition to renewable energy production. According to the Department Of Energy (DOE) Office of Electricity’s (OE) Strategy White Papers on Microgrids, as of 2021, microgrids comprised 0.2% of the United States’ electricity generation—and the stage is set for a significant increase in microgrid implementation over the next decade.
However, the complexities surrounding microgrids are considerable. There are many moving parts that must fit together seamlessly for them to disconnect from the grid when needed, and be reliable and effective: varying state regulations, a multitude of private utility firms, and existing and emerging technologies, to name a few. Fitting everything together is a massive undertaking. By standardizing policy, regulation, hardware, and software, we can accelerate the implementation of microgrids. This will encourage smooth communication between various technologies and regions, paving the way for greater collaboration and cooperation.
Standardizing software and hardware
While microgrids are projected to play a vital role in creating a reliable and resilient energy solution for critical load centers, they also make energy generation and distribution more complex.
Localization means unique energy-generating mechanisms from one microgrid to the next, depending on the surrounding environment and building layout. Additionally, the players in the utility sector are numerous, and there is considerable variability in existing and emerging microgrid technology in terms of function and design. Therefore, a given microgrid will use different vendor solutions, which can impact the interoperability between grids or lead to challenging repair and maintenance scenarios. With homogenized components or compatible software, making everything work together will become increasingly easier.
Luckily, some experts are already creating solutions to increase compatibility. For example, a guest contributor—Thomas Lee, Co-founder and CSO of Derapi—details some of the issues surrounding the integration of DERs and offers a vendor-agnostic API platform for DER data control to make communication between different software solutions possible. While software applications like this are essential for compatibility with third-party software and are crucial for deploying microgrid technology, they add an additional layer of complexity to an already intricate project.
One approach to mitigate the inherent complexities of microgrid adoption is standardizing software and hardware: solution design, physical components, control systems, cyber security, and data. This would promote compatibility between technologies and facilitate the integration of microgrids into traditional centralized power grids. Standardizing software and hardware can help utilities be more cohesive while adapting to an industry rapidly transforming and operating on a massive scale.
Standardizing policy and regulation
The complexities surrounding the development and integration of renewable technology are not bound to vendor solutions. Policy and regulation also pose challenges to the implementation of microgrids. The rules and strategies that guide design and integration often vary from state to state, which makes standardizing hardware and software convoluted at best.
Moving toward a sustainable future
Utilities need to be adaptable to build a sustainable grid that is reliable, resilient, and flexible. The landscape surrounding microgrids is unfolding rapidly, and microgrid technology and regulations and policies that guide their implementation are still developing. Yet, to meet climate objectives, the industry must continue pushing forward. Keeping track of all the technological or regulatory developments and incorporating them effectively is becoming increasingly complicated.
Utilities need experts who understand the landscape and its moving parts to navigate these challenges successfully. PSC is a team of industry specialists who understand the sector’s landscape and its moving parts. We’ve been collaborating with major electricity transmission organizations, generation companies, energy asset owners, and developers worldwide for 25 years, assisting them with various projects in operational technologies, power networks, DERs, HVDC, and more.
When it comes to microgrids, PSC helps its clients during the planning and design phase ensuring all architecture considerations have been handled. We will also help answer the necessary questions to kick off a microgrid project. Questions like:
- What is the objective of the Microgrid?
- Developing a techno-economical model.
- What are the control functions needed?
- What are the generation resources needed?
- How do technical standards impact your design?
- How do regularity standards impact your design?
Do you have a microgrid project in the pipeline? We can help you with planning, design, and implementation. Contact us here.