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Challenges Faced during Microgrid Implementation

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On the importance of microgrids


With the acceleration of natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey and Katrina, people and power agencies 
are realizing the merits of using microgrids to manage their electricity. Microgrids represent a shift in the paradigm of energy distribution and calls more localized and distributed generation. With their ability to operate in island mode, microgrids can maintain power supply even when the main grid is down. Microgrids provide low cost, clean energy to limited geographic localities improving their energy stability and operations.

 

Challenges faced during deployment of microgrids

Irrespective of their numerous advantages, implementing microgrids faces serious challenges not only on a federal and state level, but also on a technological level. On a federal level, we have microgrids contributing to distributed systems that provide power on a wholesale basis. Microgrids have the ability to provide multiple benefits like load abating and resource provision. However, market regulations do not allow for such multiple utilities. Things are even more muddled when one takes a look at the transmission planning as federally established. The compensation for transmission and power generation are very different.

grid-857865_1920There are even more barriers to overcome when one considers the regulations set by the state on microgrids. In most states, it is impossible to collect load from various customers and integrate them on one microgrid. Some states also, do not allow independent energy providers to offer services to a single customer on the customer's property. Most states have regulations that force energy providers to supply power on an all-or-nothing basis. Meaning they necessarily have to contribute to the main grid.

Technological challenges faced in the operation and deployment of microgrids are mentioned below-

  • Disconnecting feeder from utility systems- The fault current in microgrids can be much higher than those faced in distributed systems. When the fault current is of a comparable magnitude to the load current in microgrids, it can severely damage protection methods and damage safety devices. This is a major concern during island operation. Blindly implementing microgrids on feeders without careful analysis of the various protective measures can lead to serious damages to the grid.


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  • Issues during start-up of island mode- During the initial stages of island mode start-up can cause a sudden intake of current which can affect the frequency of the system and voltages. This can cause the generators to trip and go offline during the initial phase. In order to combat this, an analysis is needed on energy generation methods during island mode and specialized controls need to be developed that are suitable for microgrid operations.
  • Balancing between generation and load in island mode- This is one of the most common challenges faced by microgrids. The balance between load and power generation needs to be constantly maintained. Sudden or large change in loads can introduce instability into the island system.
  • Feeder design for microgrids- This is the most important challenge that needs to be overcome. Throughout the history of energy generation feeders have been engineered for typical grids which require a strong source. As microgrids are gaining popularity there seems to be lack of availability in suitable feeders that go with current microgrid designs.

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