Microgrid Developments Set To Enhance Grid Resiliency In US

$8 million has been awarded to bring together communities, technology developers and providers in seven states.
Published: Fri 12 Sep 2014

As part of initiatives to improve the resiliency of the US power grid to extreme weather events and other potential electricity disruptions, the Department of Energy has awarded more than US$8 million for microgrid developments in Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee and Washington.

Microgrid controllers and system designs

The projects are aimed to bring together communities, technology developers and providers, and utilities to develop advanced microgrid controllers and system designs for microgrids less than 10MW. Each project receives approximately US$1.2 million from the DOE and a company cost share ranging from up to about 50%.

ALSTOM Grid (Redmond, Washington)  – to research and design community microgrid systems for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and the Philadelphia Water Department, using portions of the former Philadelphia Navy Yard as a test bed.

● Burr Energy (Little Falls, Minnesota) – to design and build a resilient microgrid to allow the Olney, Maryland Town Center to function normally as a “lights-on” district for weeks in the event of a regional outage. A second microgrid will be designed for multi-use commercial development in nearby Prince George’s County, Maryland.

● Commonwealth Edison (Chicago, Illinois) – to develop and test a commercial-grade microgrid controller capable of controlling a system of two or more interconnected microgrids. The project includes a diverse mix of facilities and critical loads, including police and fire department headquarters, major transportation infrastructure, healthcare facilities for seniors, and private residences.

● Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI, Knoxville, Tennessee) – to develop a commercially-viable standardized microgrid controller that can allow a community to provide continuous power for critical loads. Standardizing functionality will ensure that the controller can be easily adapted for a wide range of electric grid characteristics and allow grid operators to leverage distribution assets to support both islanded and grid-connected operation.

General Electric (Niskayuna, New York) – to develop an enhanced microgrid control system by adding new capabilities, such as frequency regulation. This advanced system will be used to provide resilient, high quality power to critical loads in Potsdam, New York, including emergency service providers, utilities, and other essential services, during power disruptions.  

● TDX Power (Anchorage, Alaska) – to engineer, design, simulate, and build a microgrid control system on Saint Paul Island in the Bering Sea. The system will incorporate a wide range of energy resources in grid-connected and islanded modes to support the island utility’s existing generation facilities, while advancing microgrid architectures and technologies to strengthen the resiliency of the electric infrastructure, lower energy costs, and reduce emissions. 

● The Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) – to develop and test a generic microgrid controller intended to be readily adapted to manage a range of microgrid systems. With the California Independent System Operator Corporation providing technical advice, this project is expected to pave the way for the development of open source industry standards.

“Building in grid resiliency has gained greater urgency in recent years, as demonstrated by the economic and personal losses from electricity outages due to severe weather,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Keeping the power on during extreme weather events and other electric grid disruptions is essential, particularly so that critical facilities such as hospitals and water treatment plants can continue operating.”

Microgrids for resiliency

An increasing number of states in the US northeast are pursuing the development of microgrids to enhance grid resiliency. [Engerati-Microgrids Are Coming To Vermont and Community Microgrids Coming To New York]

The US DOE is also supporting a wide range of microgrid activities across the nation, including research and development, regional and state partnerships, and a project with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to demonstrate that a microgrid can maintain reliable and resilient electric power generation and distribution on military installations. 

Through the recently launched Microgrid 2014 MVP Challenge the DOE is also seeking to gather data on microgrid design and performance from organizations with operational microgrids. The data will help the Department learn more about microgrid performance and capture practical information that can be shared about how microgrids are being used to make communities more resilient. Six categories are being reviewed, with awards of US$100,000: healthcare facilities; emergency shelters, including housing and schools; municipal facilities, including police stations, fire stations, and water treatment plants; commercial facilities, including financial centers; industrial facilities and activities; and other government facilities.