Think of the microgrid as the great equalizer between consumers and the electrical companies. With centralized local power generation, businesses, communities and even towns can have a say in the generation and distribution of local energy.

What is a Microgrid?

It is a scaled down version of the traditional power grid that most people are familiar with. A microgrid can be as simple as having a power source like a generator hooked up to a load like a commercial business. A microgrid can also consist of distributed energy resources (DER) like solar PV systems and wind turbines that have several electrical loads. These microgrids can operate independently or in parallel with the traditional power grid.

What Components make up a Microgrid?

Because microgrids have far fewer line losses, can rely on local sources of power generation, and produce a lower demand on infrastructure, large institutions (e.g. prisons, campuses, military operations), large commercial or industrial markets, and remote settings off the grid that are realizing the benefits of building and maintaining their own microgrid.

What are the Benefits of a Microgrid?

  • Increased efficiency – with the source of generated electricity so close to the use need, very little energy is lost in transmission
  • With fewer load sources, demand on the microgrid infrastructure is less than a typical grid
  • By being smaller and closer to source demand, and being able to use power generation more specific to the location, the system has higher reliability and is able to respond to demand more quickly
  • Microgrids are laid out in a modular manner making expansion and updating more efficient
  • With local control, both design and future planning are specific to the needs of the entities participating in the microgrid
  • The microgrid can shut itself off from the main grid (islanding). Therefore, it is less vulnerable to outside attacks, cyber or physical

Hindrances to the Development of Microgrids

  • Lack of standards on power quality from different sources in the areas of operations, safety, integration, and data.
  • Legislation and regulations need to be addressed for regulating the operation of microgrids in many countries.
  • Installation costs of distributed energy resources, such as solar and wind, may be too great for some areas.
  • Lack of technical experience, infrastructure, and communication protocols.
  • Possibility of market monopoly if no infrastructure is in place to guard against pricing abuse.

Microgrids have to be figured into the modernization of the current electrical grids that service the world. With increasing volatility to brown or black outs and physical or cyber attacks, microgrids can keep important services running during any disruptions to the main grid.