Why Do We Keep Hearing About Microgrids?

Just under 10 years ago, I started hearing people mention the term “Smart Grid.” It mostly revolved around people talking about the installation and adoption of automated metering infrastructure and renewables. Over the years friends and colleagues would ask me, “Why do I keep hearing about the Smart Grid?,” and I would tell them about our increased reliance on electricity and the rolling blackouts in 2003 that caused the power industry to develop new standards and technology to help deliver safe, clean, and reliable electricity.

Well now people are asking me about microgrids and why they keep hearing about them. As Dan Girard wrote in an earlier blog post, the concept of microgrids isn’t new. What really has changed is the incorporation of wind, solar, storage and other distributed generation resources into an interconnected electrical grid. Putting distributed resources on an interconnected power system is a new concept and required experts in the field to provide standards on how best to do this in order to assure the reliability and stability of the electrical grid. Those experts came from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) who put together a standards committee to work on solving this complex problem.

Well, folks, the reason you hear more and more about microgrids is because a year ago,IEEE Standard 1547.4 was issued. This standard covers the design, operation and integration of microgrids into the electrical power systems. The industry has had a year to absorb this standard and start applying it to projects. That is why you are hearing more and more about microgrids, because the power industry has provided the standard work to allow projects to move forward. And you will keep hearing about it as universities, commercial campuses, industrial facilities, and government agencies invest billions into developing their own microgrids. By 2017, Pike Research predicts that global microgrid capacity will reach 4.7 gigawatts. As these projects take off and the benefits are proven, the term “microgrid” will become commonplace in our industry.

This blog was originally published on S&C’s Blog and was republished with permission.

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Gary Wetzel is the Director of Commercial & Industrial Business Development for S&C Electric Company. He has over 35 years of experience in the electrical industry working with all markets including projects for utilities, major industrial, government, universities, data centers, hospitals and commercial customers. He has lead projects for energy storage, UPS systems, medium voltage distribution systems and power quality correction for low and medium voltage systems. He has experience applying solutions involving low and medium voltage transformers, low and medium voltage switchgear, small and medium power transfomers; overhead and underground switching and protection. In his current position he has responsibility for application of S&C products and services across government, institutional, industrial and commercial markets in the United States. Mr. Wetzel is a member of IEEE and has co-authored papers on arc-resistant switchgear and presented IEEE papers and tutorials on distribution switchgear, arc-resistant switchgear and power quality.

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