ORNL’s Microgrid Project Coming Along — Standardized, Self-Sustaining Electric Microgrids Soon?

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The Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s microgrid project, the “Complete System-Level Efficient and Interoperable Solution for Microgrid Integrated Controls (CSEISMIC)” — which aims to (as the name implies) standardize the toolkit for managing and controlling an effective, reliable, and safe microgrid — is now two years in, and the fruits of the labor are starting to show.

The microgrid test bed at ORNL’s Distributed Energy Control and Communication (DECC) lab is now functional, and is utilizing an algorithm developed at ORNL “that directs automatic transition on and off ORNL’s main grid.”

Solar ORNL

The next year of the project will focus on the task of getting the energy management system up and running. That system will then drive optimization by “allowing microgrid components to fluctuate operation based on parameters such as demand and cost.”

“The EMS may, for instance, tell the PVs [solar cells] how much power to generate for the next five to 10 minutes based on the time of day and energy demand,” stated researcher Yan Xu.

With regard to future goals, the CSEISMIC research team is, eventually, aiming to partner with those in a number of different industries in order to conduct field demonstrations of standardized grid prototypes.

“As soon as microgrids are standardized and easy to integrate into the main grid, we’ll start seeing them in areas with a high penetration of renewables and high energy prices.”

The microgrid currently being used by the DECC researchers possesses a total generation capacity of around 250 kW, which can seamlessly switch on and off the main grid.

“This grid includes an energy storage system that generates 25kW of power and uses 50kW•hours of energy built from second-use electric vehicle batteries, a 50kW- and a 13.5 kW-solar system and two smart inverters that serve as the grid interfaces for the distributed energy emulators. Programmable load banks that mimic equipment consuming energy on the grid can provide sudden large load changes and second-by-second energy profiles.”

Interesting system. We’ll keep you updated on future developments.

Image Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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