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.

Did You Know
As the microgrid market and enabling technologies continue to evolve and expand, the Consortium is committed to serving as a resource and advocate. Microgrids would make feasible large community energy projects such as biomass plants, banks of fuel cells, and neighborhood arrays of solar panels or wind turbines.

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.

Economic Development
A report released by Navigant Research in April 2013 stated that more than 400 individual microgrid projects are currently in operation or under development worldwide. As microgrids move from pilot programs to full-scale commercialization, Navigant’s Market Data: Microgrids analysis projects market revenue will jump from $8.3 billion in 2013 to more than $40 billion annually by 2020.

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
NY Prize


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.

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