Microgrid Trends Revealed at ACIEU Conference

Author photo: Rick Rys
ByRick Rys
Technology Trends

Driven by the expansion of renewable power and lithium-ion batteries, microgrids are changing the architecture of electric grids.

The ACIEU Microgrid Conference was held on June 5 and 6, 2024 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and included a tour of the Schneider-Electric microgrid test center in Andover, MA. The conference highlighted the powerful synergy between renewable energy sources, battery storage, and microgrid control technology, demonstrating how this combination can create a more flexible, reliable, and resilient power system.


ACIEU Microgrid Conference


Trends from a Wide Range of Microgrid Stakeholders

A diverse panel of experts illustrated a wide range of viewpoints from investor owned and municipal utilities, from US Army microgrid planners, microgrid suppliers of equipment, services and testing, microgrid market experts, solid oxide fuel cell suppliers, from the CSA (Canadian Standards Association), from experts on electric transportation and charging, and many innovative ideas for the future structure of smart electric grids with renewable hydrogen and e-fuels.

The Army and Air force

The US army has some 184 bases they are planning to upgrade to microgrids by 2030, but so far only 28 have been done. The Army has some unique requirements for cyber security and can require 5-nines reliability as well as many other features that depend on the location. In some situations, mobility is a critical feature but for fixed bases they prefer not to own the assets and prefer an EaaS relationship with direct private investment. There was also discussion on military and municipal deep well geothermal energy for baseload power.

CSA Group on Standards and Codes.

No Conference would be complete without a discussion on standards and codes for safety, fire, interoperability, and communications. issues. CSA gave us an update on NFPA Codes (National Fire Protection Association), and UL (formerly Underwriters Laboratories) and IEEE standards. Early battery technology had some thermal runaways and many fire marshals were caught off guard and overreacted with blanket bans on batteries. Certification to standards like UL 9540A for batteries and greatly improved safety statistics should counter out of date misinformation on this important topic. For more information on battery safety refer to ACP at https://cleanpower.org/resources/claims-vs-facts-energy-storage-leading-on-safety/

National Energy on Waste to Power

National Energy (an event sponsor) showcased their groundbreaking waste management system, demonstrating how Air Force waste management technology that stemmed from the transition away from burn pits can lead to environmentally responsible solutions. National Energy provides a system that can process waste with an AI vision enabled robotic sorter. The system produces a fuel pellet that has been used to power municipal microgrids and reduce landfill waste by 85%.

NREL on Microgrid Connectivity

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) described how their Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in Golden Colorado is open to all manner of research projects. While hardware in the loop testing is common, the presentation described the Banshee model for microgrid simulations. The model was developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory and is used by NREL to evaluate microgrid controller, protection, and cybersecurity systems. The Banshee model has been instrumental in several NREL research projects for studies on the stability of inverter control strategies and the interconnection and Interoperability of grid-forming inverters.

University Model of Renewable Power, and Energy Storage Using Hydrogen

A professor from Hochschule Straslund presented a model and vision for a complete smart city energy system that makes green hydrogen from renewable power but advocates for conversion to a more energy dense methanol fuel.

Schneider Electric on Microgrid Demand Flexibility

Schneider Electric was an event sponsor and gave a tour of their microgrid testing center in Andover, MA the day before the conference started. This facility has an operational microgrid with solar from the parking lot as well as an extensive testing facility that can test hardware in the loop. Schneider-Electric spoke about how they can facilitate demand flexibility strategies and explained how they can finance, design, build, own, and operate microgrids using a EaaS (Energy as a Service) model.

Mass Clean Energy Center on Electrification of Transportation

The Mass Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) is a state-funded economic development agency dedicated to accelerating the growth of the clean energy sector across the Commonwealth. With funding of $37 million this year they described how they are leading the development of EV charging infrastructure throughout Massachusetts. MassCEC is providing funding and technical assistance for the installation of charging stations in homes, workplaces, public spaces, and supporting fleet charging with microgrids.

National Grid on Microgrids to Improve Reliability

Despite the potential to significantly reduce outage frequency and duration in rural upstate New York, National Grid's planned network of interconnected microgrids at four substations has faced setbacks due to community concerns about battery safety. This underscores the need for proactive communication and educational efforts to highlight the benefits and correctly address potential fire and safety risks of the latest generation of grid scale batteries.

General Microgrids on for Transactive Energy

This presentation emphasized the need for new regulations that support the growing need for new transactive energy business models. General Microgrids is actively involved in developing standards and certifications to support microgrid transactions.

Bloom Energy on Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Microgrids

Bloom Energy described how solid oxide fuel cells using green hydrogen or methane can power a microgrid with energy efficiencies between 53-65% and up to 90% when configured for combined heat and power. Fuel cells using methane or biogas and equipped with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) have the distinct advantage they do not produce NOx and the CO2 produced is already concentrated avoiding the need for an absorber and regenerator.

The conference showcased a rich tapestry of experiences, illuminating the expanding microgrid market and the diverse array of configurations that are enhancing power reliability and generating revenue through grid energy and ancillary services. For more market information on microgrids see ARC reports on microgrids, grid automation, and grid asset management. https://www.arcweb.com/market-analysis/microgrid-automation-systems

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