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The Role of Microgrid Controllers in Shaping Loads

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Julian Jackson's picture
Staff Writer, Energy Central, BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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  • Apr 8, 2022

A microgrid controller can assist utility companies as they plan how to manage a fully renewable, multi-directional, resilient grid.

By using microgrid controllers at important grid locations the system can offer swift, automatic control of assets. The automated controls can be utilized at substations, in front-of-the-meter and behind-the-meter microgrids, in utility-owned renewable energy resources like solar or wind farms, battery, hydrogen or other energy storage systems, as well as businesses and academic campuses.

Microgrid controllers are able to address many common grid challenges at a reduced cost and with lower disruption to operations than many more traditional systems. For example, when non-utility-managed DERs cause voltage fluctuations at a substation, a microgrid controller can use real-time control to keep the grid within normal parameters by maintaining swift (sub second) load management.

There are six ways in which microgrid controllers are beneficial to modern grid problems. Because many of these issues are interrelated, a single microgrid controller can solve several simultaneously.

The Case for Utilizing Microgrid Controllers


Improved Speed, Accuracy and Efficiency

Microgrid controllers help utilities, campuses, and communities manage and coordinate localized DERs and loads. They independently balance real and reactive power and efficiently dispatch resources for resiliency, power quality, and economic benefit. Because real-time controls make decisions using artificial intelligence based on data that is delivered 200 times faster than the sampling range of conventional SCADA systems, the controls provide an accurate snapshot of power quality that enables autonomy and instantaneous response to current conditions. This eliminates the multi-second lag times and need for human response inherent in SCADA systems. It also eliminates improvised workarounds for managing more DERs.


Stabilizing Intermittency

Clouds come and go, and EV drivers migrate between home and work in a collective pattern, creating shifts in supply and demand that can push local grid nodes from stable to struggling in a blink. Microgrid controllers provide frequency maintenance and keep microgrids or grid nodes in balance.


Load Shaping

Sometimes DER or EV adoption is much greater on one portion of the grid than the next. With microgrid controllers at multiple substations, grid operators can reshape a load profile and optimize across a broader portion of the system. They do this by creating a “sharing economy” where substations with excess energy share with substations in need.


Reducing Emissions

Utilities are working to reduce carbon emissions in the fight against climate change. Microgrid controllers help reduce reliance on fossil fuels by optimizing renewable sources and reducing their curtailment. They do so through time-synchronized and coordinated control of up to thousands of DERs.


Improving Resiliency

Natural disasters threaten electric grids. We have seen recently that wildfires, drought, hurricanes, and freezing weather can be serious issues. Microgrid controllers increase system resiliency and help avoid blackouts during unplanned events and extreme weather. They manage local voltage fluctuations and excursions, stabilize the grid by coordinating assets, and maintain service without interruption for systems like microgrids even during a grid outage.


Promoting Regulatory Support

Utilities need regulatory support to execute their grid road map and to win that support they must justify their expenses. Microgrid controllers save utilities and their customers money by improving current asset utilization. Utilities can obtain detailed insights about system performance and design a plan to release maximum value and the optimum position for emerging tariffs and market conditions.

This shows that microgrid controllers are one of the ways to ensure that supply and demand can be synchronized as we move towards an energy transition and net zero.


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