This piece was originally published in the November 2017 issue of electroindustry.
Brian Marchionini, PMP, Senior Program Manager, NEMA
Are microgrids the answer to keeping electricity flowing during natural disasters? In the aftermath of three devastating hurricanes, stakeholder interest in microgrid development is growing. Integral to today’s power delivery system of the 21st century, they are fundamental building blocks for grid modernization.
Microgrids can help integrate a range of distributed energy resources (DER). These include renewable energy resources, conventional and alternative distributed generation, and electric energy storage as well as load management and demand response. Microgrids can also be an effective way of balancing the variability of renewable resources and loads.
Besides resilience to extreme weather events and contingencies, microgrids can reduce the cost of supplying electric energy from central generation plants though a transmission network and diversify the energy supply. A key element is the control system that manages the DER and sends data to the distribution grid operator so that it can be islanded as required.
Two areas important to additional deployment of microgrids are related to standards development and overcoming regulatory barriers.
First, standards are a key enabler to the deployment of microgrids and the associated DER within them. Standards for microgrid control systems that meet minimum interconnection and interoperability requirements are particularly important.
The other is regulatory barriers, the overarching determinant of the microgrid’s role in the power delivery system. Regulation is the single most important barrier to microgrids as independent entities and as systems integrated within distribution utilities.
NEMA is undertaking a strategic initiative on microgrids that will explore:
- Lessons learned from successful deployment
- Top regulatory barriers
- Policy and regulatory solutions
- Codes and standards hindering adoption
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