microgridThe U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is collaborating with both the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and General Electric (GE) on new projects concerning migrogrids. The primary objective of this collaboration is to further the development of microgrids in order to facilitate power backup for cities and communities during storms or other electric service disruptions.

As technology advances, microgrids are improving and becoming increasingly more sophisticated. Some are in use with the majority typically deployed in a field trial setting. However, these technologies are still undergoing testing and various enhancements.

Supported by DOE grants of $1.2 million each, EPRI and GE are both working on their projects at NREL’s Energy System Integration Facility (ESIF). The facility’s equipment enables manufacturers, and researchers perform tests under real-life conditions to determine how efficiently their systems perform before they enter the marketplace.

NREL Associate Director for Energy Systems Integration, Bryan Hannegan, discusses the importance of microgrids and their benefits to the energy ecosystem as a whole.

“Microgrids support a flexible and efficient electric grid, enabling the integration of renewable and distributed energy resources such as wind and solar energy, combined heat and power, energy storage, and demand response. The ESIF offers our industry partners a place to study and develop new energy technologies and practices in real time and on a large scale in an environment that is friendly to exploration.”

NREL’s role in the projects will be to test EPRI’s and GE’s microgrid controllers with that equipment. EPRI is working on a double-edged project. The goal is to create a standardized controller that can be customized to manage a myriad of grid situations and provide operators with a tool that will work equally well when connected to the grid or independent from it.