Technological innovation continues to disrupt the old ways of doing business and accelerating power grid modernization. As technology advances and E.P.A. regulations gain a foothold, power industry professionals face continuous and ongoing challenges to U.S. electrical power system.
One of the newest technological advancements to arise is that of the microgrid: a network of connected electricity generation assets, controls, and loads that can operate separately from a utility grid and/or easily connect to or disconnect from a utility grid.
Microgrids come in three basic types: remote, customer-owned, and utility distribution.
Remote microgrids: provide power to communities far from utility networks.
Customer-owned microgrids: typically refer to microgrids in use at large facilities owned by a single customer, such as military bases and college campuses.
Utility distribution microgrids: refer to portions of the grid within the utility system that are configured to act as microgrids.
The commonality between all three types is that microgrids can generate, distribute, and regulate the flow of electricity to consumers at a local level. Although remote and customer-owned microgrids are well-established and utilized, utility distribution microgrids are just now emerging, especially now that intelligent grid technologies are being deployed and more distributed generation (DG) is installed.
In recent years, interest in microgrids has grown astronomically – namely for their benefits for resiliency and reliability. Microgrids are especially reliable when blackouts or extreme weather conditions arise because they can generate and continue to deliver electricity to connected loads with no reliance on the utility grid.
According to a study from Navigant Research, the United States is the leader in microgrid adoption, with nearly 1,500 MW installed capacity and another 1,100 MW in planning.