Nanogrids, Microgrids, and Big Data: The Future of the Power Grid – IEEE Spectrum

 The power grid’s interlocking technological, economic, and regulatory underpinnings were established about a century ago and have undergone only minimal disruption in the decades since. But now the industry is facing massive change.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Microgrid musings of an EE

    The US Department of Energy (DOE) defines a microgrid as a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that act as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. It can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island-mode

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Startup Profile: ME SOLshare’s “Swarm Electrification” Powers Villages in Bangladesh

    Bangladesh hosts the world’s largest collection of off-grid solar energy systems. Rooftop panels and batteries electrify over 4 million households and businesses there. The Dhaka-based startup ME SOLshare believes it has the technology to link these systems and foster a solar energy-sharing economy. If the company succeeds, home systems will morph into village minigrids, offering wider access to more power at lower cost.

    SOLshare’s European founders—Sebastian Groh, Hannes Kirchhoff, and Daniel Ciganovic—conceived their “swarm electrification” power-sharing platform during grad-school brainstorming sessions in Germany and California. The three moved to Dhaka to define, engineer, and launch their product, starting with power measurements in off-grid solar homes.

    A smart power controller, called a SOLbox, is installed in each home or business and linked with cables to other local SOLboxes to form a DC distribution grid. The SOLbox enables users to set how much power they want to share with or draw from the network, and at what price.

    The SOLbox handles the accounting, too, reconciling power purchases and sales—as well as SOLshare’s brokerage fee—via each user’s mobile money wallet. Wireless communications allow SOLshare to optimize power flows over the meshed DC grids to minimize bottlenecks and line losses.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Mini-Microgrid Technology Promises To Bolster Grid Resilience

    A new technological innovation designed for residential energy consumption may prove to be a means by which homeowners can ensure that the lights stay on–even if the grid shuts down.

    The “Energy Switch,” as Austin, Texas-based research and development organization Pecan Street has dubbed the device, is a multi-source microgrid that gives users the option of drawing power from a wide variety of sources including, photovoltaic cells, generators, natural gas or a combination of them all.

    The technology could potentially lessen the damage of storms

    “We are looking forward to the future grid architecture which we see as being very highly distributed,” Haskell said. “One problem that manifested early was how to make it easier for someone in a remote area to buy what they need to go off grid.”

    He noted that the company realized that combining the requirements from the consumer and utility perspective could appeal to homeowners who want to store their solar energy for later use, as well as utilities that want to drop residential loads during demand response events.

    The energy switch enables users to manage their electric consumption from a single point, instead of having someone check a battery, solar panels or a generator.

    Haskell said that, if the grid parameters changed for any reason, the power factor and the quality wouldn’t matter for the homeowner because both would be balanced.

    The road ahead

    Pecan Street does not currently have a UL certified product to sell, Haskell said. He added that the energy switch can serve as a reference design for companies looking to develop and commercialize their own microgrid products.

    “Our system can emulate product features to test the value proposition and the design.”

    The company has also been working to add an electric vehicle (EV) charge controlling element to the system. Haskell said that the full benefit of hybrid vehicles as a means to generate electricity has yet to be fully explored.

    “When someone gets a [Chevrolet] Volt, they almost never buy gas: it’s just there as a backup,”

    “It will be a gradual improvement, and people may not notice it immediately, but 20 years from now we may find that we are able to better withstand some cataclysmic events.”


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