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This white paper is the first in a planned series on advancing microgrids. Microgrids meet customer energy needs with generation, storage assets, and smart controls in an electrical system that can separate or “island” from the grid and operate on its own. When connected to the grid, microgrids can optimize customer energy use and provide a range of services to support the grid.
Microgrids have become increasingly popular in the United States. Supported by favorable federal and local policies, microgrid projects can provide greater energy stability and resilience within a project site or community. This paper reviews major federal, state, and utility-level policies driving microgrid development in the United States.
Seven representative U.S. demonstration projects are selected and their technical characteristics non-technical features are introduced. The paper discusses trends in the technology development of microgrid systems as well as microgrid control methods and interactions within the electricity market. Software tools for microgrid design, planning, and performance analysis are illustrated with each tool’s core capability.
Finally, the paper summarizes the successes and lessons learned during the recent expansion of the U.S. microgrid industry that may serve as a reference for other countries developing their own microgrid industries.
This report features 26 microgrid case studies from California, North America, and other countries that make innovative business cases and rely on government support for less than 50 percent of project costs. The microgrids profiled range in size from 78 kW (a small demonstration in Michigan) to 112.5 MW (Denmark), and serve commercial, military, municipal, education, agriculture, and utility clients.
The majority of projects (93 percent) use solar photovoltaic and energy storage as part of the microgrid generation mix. Diesel and biogas distributed generation technologies are also prevalent. Analysis of the case studies shows that microgrid business models are still diverse and offer numerous value propositions to hosts.