The Importance of Microgrid Controllers in Emerging Energy Technologies

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Microgrids are great examples of innovation on scale. As a Distributed Energy System (DES), microgrids service small, local energy needs that benefit users within that area. They’re safe, flexible, and often use a combination of sustainable technologies. These include wind and solar in addition to traditional but “smart” monitored energy sources.

Microgrids can “island” themselves from a primary regional grid in support of their designed customer footprint. This islanding means that they can dynamically manage the connection to the outside grid, supplying power to their customers but pulling additional power from the primary grid in peak times.

However, in outages, they can separate themselves from the primary grid to supply energy independent from the primary grid to their customer base. The key to this capability lies within the microgrid control system.

How Microgrid Control Systems Manage Distributed Energy Systems

The capabilities of a microgrid depend on the microgrid control system. Microgrid controller technology acts as the eyes, ears, and brain of the entire system and is customizable depending on the size of the system.

Microgrid controllers consist of both hardware and software designed to manage the system efficiently. Electricity is the only commodity used the instant it’s generated. It’s common to overproduce to prevent outages to ensure the grid has enough power.

Microgrid control systems allow for more efficient management of power generation, type of power used, and other managed assets such as storage and incoming or outgoing current.

Here are a few ways microgrid controllers manage the microgrid system:

  1. Security of Energy Resources – Through the concept of “islanding,” microgrids provide a secure and dependable energy supply. This security comes in the form of localized control and generation of supply during outages for the main grids in weather events or natural disasters. They’re also less likely to be affected by system-wide cyber attacks.
  2. Revenue Generation – Because energy systems must overproduce electricity to meet any level of demand, traditional systems are notorious for overgenerating power. Microgrid control systems allow an analysis of customer needs, and any additional power can be added to the primary regional grid and sold for profit.
  3. Balance – The reverse of revenue-generating means that in peak times, microgrids can pull power from the system for the customers based on the additional power needed. The microgrid controls manage this balance alternately, drawing power in times of need and supplying power during excess production. The system is software-driven and can leverage AI, deep analytics, machine learning, and other big data dynamics to manage the balance closely.
  4. Efficiency – This combination of software, analytics, and dynamic management means that microgrid control systems make DES microgrids highly efficient. Energy isn’t just created and pushed into the system. Customer trends and usage patterns allow the system to tailor its capabilities while using the most efficient and cost-effective solution available.
  5. Sustainability – These benefits alone are significant advantages of microgrid systems compared to traditional energy production. However, their innovation extends to cover sustainability as well. Microgrid control technology uses software to select sustainable energy options when available. These actions may be simple, like using solar during the day and adding main grid power during the evening. It may also be more complex by providing power storage from the microgrid or the primary grid in batteries or fuel cells to provide power for detected peak time patterns.

Microgrid Controllers – Innovation at Work

The microgrid control system market has grown exponentially as microgrid systems have come online and are expected to reach $2.9 billion a year by 2029. They provide flexibility, efficiency, security, and cost savings. And the innovation of these control systems has helped usher sustainable energy resources into mainstream grid and power management.

At the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC)at Georgian College, we understand the importance of focused innovation and entrepreneurship. By leveraging training, peer participation, mentorship, and more, HBEC can help entrepreneurs develop skills to bring innovation, such as microgrid control systems and supporting technology, to life.

Contact us to learn more about how our programs can help you chart a course for innovation and build your business.

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