Microgrids may be the way of the future for disconnecting to the electric grid, but that won’t happen unless their efficiency, reliability, and safety can be demonstrated on a functional scale. Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working to make it a reality by using a working microgrid with a capacity of approximately 250 kW in ORNL’s Distributed Energy Control and Communication lab to develop tools to standardize the design and operations process.
While the microgrid is connected to ORNL’s main grid, an algorithm developed by the scientists allows the system to automatically transition the connection on and off. Additionally, programmable load banks imitate large-scale equipment consumption. The microgrid’s generators, power flow controllers, switches, and loads are also outfitted with sensors and communication links to provide real-time energy monitoring. The researchers’ next step is to integrate the microgrid with an energy management system to predict and control the amount of energy that is produced based on demand.
“As soon as microgrids are standardized and easy to integrate into the main grid, we’ll start seeing them in areas with a high penetration of renewables and high energy prices,” says Yan Xu, lead researcher on the project.
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