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Remote microgrids grow as an option for utilities

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, January 09, 2012

In the power sector, two main forms of microgrids are currently used, and while grid-tied microgrids are now the most popular, remote micro grids are growing for under-served end-users, Intelligent Utility reports.

According to the news source, today's power utilities are more inclined to operate a grid-tied system, mostly due to new IEEE standards and requirements established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates demand response.

"Now utilities, instead of worrying about microgrids disconnecting their loads from the grid at will are now saying, 'microgrids are the most secure form of demand response,'" said Peter Asmus, author of Introduction to Energy in California. "In fact, microgrids are an ideal demand response resource."

Asmus added that right now, grid-tied microgrids are the exception to certain rules, but the new IEEE standard may pave the way for more remote microgrids to be established.

The media outlet states several utilities, including AEP Ohio, San Diego Gas and Electric and ConEd in New York, have begun innovative new programs to work on the development of microgrids. These developments are leading to new pilot projects and even commercial deployments of the systems.

As microgrids grow, so too will smart grid technology, says Asmus.

"You can view microgrids as building blocks of the smart grid," he said. "They're an alternative to utility smart meter deployments. I view smart meters as a top-down technology, whereas microgrids are bottom-up. They can work together."

Asmus noted that in California, the microgrid could be a more appealing choice, as opposed to smart meters, as they have the option of being more tailored to an end-user. However, not all utilities are on board with the notion yet, which he says would be the largest challenge.

Microgrids utilize smart grid technology to integrate distributed energy generation from different forms of resources. Because they can operate independent of the main grid, they have been used in commercial, community, institutional, military and remote areas.

Several microgrid pilot programs developed in 2011 have now shifted to full-scale commercial use, suggesting the system will continue to grow.

As the use of microgrids spreads, smart grid technology will continue to proliferate around North America. SUBNET Solutions Inc. can help utilities integrate such new technologies with existing infrastructure in order to install substation automation and remote access capabilities to the modern grid.

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