As defined by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a microgrid is a localized grouping of electricity sources and loads that normally operate connected to and synchronous with the traditional centralized grid (macrogrid), but can disconnect and function autonomously as physical and/or economic conditions dictate.
These self-contained electricity distribution systems, typically within a larger electrical distribution network, have “islanding” capability and have the capability to coordinate and distribute energy supplied from one or more generation sources to a network of users in a spatially defined area.
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When a blackout occurs, rooftop solar panels often go dead too, since most people have no way to store electricity on-site. A microgrid might enable the panels to keep working. But the really interesting question is where that power would go. Would you use it yourself or dedicate your trickle of power to the police station?
Conventional electricity is delivered through a tangled network of substations and feeders. Microgrids could use smart inverters –newer, more adaptive tools for converting between DC and AC power– and sophisticated software to allow a community to deliver and retrieve power without disturbing the grid’s delicate voltage balance.
Microgrids could make the power system more efficient (by preserving the up to 15 percent of electricity that can be lost on long-distance transmission lines and local feeders) and less polluting (by reducing reliance on carbon dioxide-spewing power plants).
For the local microgrid to provide serious backup during a power outage, there would have to be storage. That could take the form of clean fuel or large, expensive batteries–or even those batteries-on-wheels otherwise known as electric cars. This so-called vehicle-to-grid solution could serve as a giant, flexible, and networked storehouse of energy for the neighborhood.
According to Navigant Research’s “Microgrid Enabling Technologies”, microgrid developments require a substantial investment into distributed generation (DG) technology, most notably combined heat and power (CHP), fuel cells, solar photovoltaic (PV) and distributed wind. Moving forward, new microgrids will increasingly rely not only upon new DG installations, but also on other microgrid enabling technologies, including smart islanding inverters, advanced energy storage, internal forms of automated demand response (ADR) and other technologies.
According to the PlaNYC “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” report released June 2013, a single day without electricity can mean more than $1 billion in lost economic output for New York City alone. As outlined in the “Community Microgrids: Smarter, Cleaner, Greener” report from the Pace Energy and Climate Center, the combination of nearby generation and the ability to island provides a dependable back-up when the main electrical grid fails. In addition, microgrids can help bring and keep jobs and income within the community. Since microgrids are built and operated on site, local construction, maintenance and operating staff will need to be employed. Microgrids also help keep wages and income within the local community by reducing the money spent on energy imported from outside the community.
NY Prize helps communities reduce costs, promote clean energy, and build reliability and resiliency into the electric grid. NY Prize is a part of a statewide endeavor to modernize New York State’s electric grid, spurring innovation and community partnerships with utilities, local governments, and private sector. Our mission is to enable the technological, operational, and business models that will help communities reduce costs, promote clean energy, and build reliability and resiliency into the grid.
The following resources and links provide additional information and references on NY Prize:
- NYSERDA – NY Prize Program
A first-in-the nation $40 million competition to help communities create microgrids – standalone energy systems that can operate independently in the event of a power outage.
- NY Prize: Stage 1 – Feasibility Reports
- NY Prize: Stage 2 – Overview
- NY Prize: Stage 2 – Resources For Applicants
Approximately $8 million is available for microgrid detailed engineering design, financial and business plans.
- NY Prize Competition – Stage 2 Request for Proposal (RFP) [PDF]
NY Prize Stage 2: Detailed Engineering Design and Financial and Business Plan. NYSERDA is accepting proposals for funding to conduct detailed engineering and commercial assessments that evaluate the feasibility of installing/operating a community microgrid at a site within New York State.
The following references provide additional information and references on microgrids:
- Business Executives for National Security – Power The Fight: Capturing Smart Microgrid Potential
- Department of Energy (DOE) – Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for Microgrid Research
- DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability – Program Activities on Microgrids
- Electric Power Research Institute – Microgrid Primer (Draft Report)
- Massachusetts Clean Energy Center – Microgrids: Benefits, Models, Barriers
- Navigant – Microgrid Multi-Client Study – Public Executive Summary
- New York State Legislature Mandates Microgrid Study
- NYSSGC – Community Microgrid and Case Study Analysis
- NYSSGC – Microgrid Inventory Report
- Pace Energy and Climate Center – Community Microgrids: Smarter, Cleaner, Greener
- Public Utilities Fortnightly – Utility 2.0 and the Dynamic Microgrid
- Sandia National Laboratories – The Advanced Microgrid Integration and Interoperability
The following links provide additional information and references on microgrids:
- Advanced Energy Economy – Creating a 21st Century Electricity System for New York State
- EnergyBiz – Dawn of Microgrids
- EnergyBiz – Growing The Microgrid Market
- Microgrid Institute
- North Country Public Radio – Can Microgrids Modernize North Country Electricity?
- NYCHA Seeks a Partner for State-of-the-Art Microgrid: Heat & Power Generation System at Red Hook Houses
- NYSSGC and the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery – Community Microgrid Webinar
- RISE: NYC – Resiliency Innovations for a Stronger Economy
- Urban Land Institute – A Developing Front in Resilience: Electricity Microgrids