What is a Microgrid?
First, we must understand our current national energy system.The “macro” grid is a massive electrical network of energy sources that connects utilities, energy generators, storage, and 24-7 control centers monitoring supply and demand. For more on the macro grid, check out this site!
The Department of Energy defines a microgrid as a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island-mode.
A microgrid can:
Use solar panels and large batteries placed throughout your neighborhood to create its own power supply
Work even when the usual power is out (island mode)
Provide a clean, renewable source of energy
May be used instead of utility’s electricity when electricity prices are high or peaking
The macro grid made sense when power generation was centralized. But, this system is wildly outdated - as well as dependent on dirty energy sources - and this is hindering large scale system transformation to cleaner and decentralized energy. Decentralized energy is more reliable since most outages (on the macrogrid) are due to transmission and distribution failures.
Distributed Energy Resources (DER): electricity-producing resources that are directly connected to a local distribution system
Grid: network for delivering electricity
Islanding: when a system maintains power (separate from the grid) when electrical grid power is no longer available
Load: physical entity (buildings, cars, homes) that consumes power
(Public) Utility: supplier of public services such as electricity or gas under special regulation by the government
Resilience: capacity for a system to (a) maintain function under extreme stress and (b) adapt and evolve to improve sustainability in the system
For a more in depth dive into this system’s definitions, please refer here.
Benefits of Microgrids:
Reliable power source during an outage
More dependable as climate threats increase in severity and frequency
Shelter in place when evacuation is not an option
By producing power independent of utility companies, user-interaction with the energy market is more flexible
Lowers electricity bill
Uses existing programs to finance energy efficiency upgrades
Creates local jobs
Reduces dependance on dirty forms of energy
Increases applications of renewable energy
Meets greenhouse gas reduction goals
Improves air quality as clean energy increases
Benefits public health