Wunderlich-Malec: Taking Stock

What is a Utility Microgrid?

| September 3, 2020

A utility microgrid serves a distinct subset of customers within a defined geographic or functional boundary that provides for islanding of selected loads.  Utility microgrids are used to accelerate investment into resiliency, reliability, renewable power, distributed energy, solar PV, and plug in vehicles while providing savings for the utility. Examples of utility microgrids include municipal utilities as well as subsections of public utility grids serving cities and new developments.

The electricity sector faces potential game-changing disruptions driven by higher expectations from electricity customers and, technology advances In addition, cities, states, and customers are seeking to achieve aggressive renewable and net zero goals.A utility microgrid approach divides vast utility territories into a network of manageable customer-centric nodes (see Figure 1 below). This microgrid approach or architecture enables new utility services, investment, and greater collaboration with city governments and large customers.

Figure 1: Utility Microgrid Mapping

Further, utilities serving as the distribution system operator, build distribution system master controllers that leverage customer assets to stabilize the grid through price response and ancillary grid services.

Key benefits to utilities, customers, ratepayers, and the bulk grid include:

  • Making the business case for new services and distribution system investment into resiliency, reliability, and two-way power flow
  • Enabling renewable power procurement and net zero goals
  • Accelerating the adoption of plug in vehicle (PEV) and solar PV
  • Leveraging local generation for efficiency, price response and grid services to manage loads and power quality within the microgrid.
  • Reducing peak demand and wholesale prices by providing price response within the microgrid.
  • Providing ancillary services to the local distribution and transmission system operator, to help balance loads within the microgrid and minimize the impact on the transmission system operators.
  • Drawing on the benefits provided by customers, utilities can reduce their operating costs, transmission service costs and their own investments in assets required to meet new loads and growing demand.

The result:  Ultimately, utility microgrids provide a pathway to increased investment that results in dramatic improvements in reliability, resiliency, and efficiency while accommodating increasing amounts of purchased renewable power, local solar PV and plug in vehicles.

How to Get Started?

This microgrid approach enables the utility to develop joint sustainable energy plans with each city, leveraging city resources to achieve goals and reduce costs.  This could include performing a utility city microgrid pilot leveraging Wunderlich-Malec mGridTM tools.   The utility microgrid pilot can include, but is not limited to:

  • Completing a microgrid mapping or division of the operator grid into a network of distinct utility microgrids
  • Applying the Wunderlich-Malec mGridTM performance scorecard to rate and prioritize the utility microgrids based upon reliability, capacity constraints, utilization factor, and key indicators
  • Develop a city-specific utility microgrid plan and engage the local government to coordinate resources leveraging Wunderlich-Malec mGridTM This can include:
    • Net zero simulations
    • Self-healing conceptual design for reliability and accommodating Solar PV & PEV
    • Plans and designs for protecting critical facilities
    • Strategies for maximizing renewable power delivery and achieving net zero goals
  • Pilot new rate riders and make the case for increased investment
  • Garner local government support to take the program system wide

For more Microgrid information or a consultation contact:

Wunderlich-Malec’s experienced engineering team can help customers determine the best microgrid and mode transfer design to meet their needs. Contact John Kelly from the mGrid™ team to discuss your microgrid needs at john.kelly@wmeng.com.