Technology is changing the game. Is your utility ready?
Stephen F. Schneider is a vice president and chief solutions architect at Science Applications International Corp.
Microgrids have had a minor presence in the electric utility industry for years. Historically, implementation costs have kept microgrids from competing against the traditional electric grid, with its economy of scale. However, the growth of shale gas and the convergence of thermal, electric, and waste systems now are creating a compelling microgrid business case.
As microgrids become more prevalent, utilities stand to benefit in multiple ways—with rewards in operations, revenues, and customer service. The opportunity calls upon utilities to prepare for microgrids as partners on the system rather than competitive threats.
Defining the Microgrid
A microgrid is classically defined as a small electric utility than can be separated from the larger grid for stand-alone, computer-controlled, independent operation to locally take the place of the electric utility operations. Three main types of microgrids exist: single-parcel or single-owner campuses; multi-parcel or multi-owner campuses; and remote off-grid sites.