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.”

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    LF Energy and Sony CSL to Collaborate on an Open-Source Microgrid Project

    LF Energy and Sony Computer Science Laboratories (CSL) have announced Hyphae, a microgrid initiative to automate peer-to-peer distribution of renewable energy. The goal of Hyphae is to make microgrids more efficient and the overall grid more carbon-neutral.

    Microgrids are segments of larger grids that can disconnect from the larger grid to operate independently. One of the biggest benefit of microgrids is seen to be the resilience they can afford in response to grid disturbances or failures. They also provide a mechanism for attaching renewable energy systems to the grid at large.

    In an interview with EE Times, Shuli Goodman, executive director at LF Energy, and Kotaro Jinushi, business development manager at Sony CSL (a subsidiary of Sony Corp.), highlighted how their collaboration directs the industrial market toward the goal of building an interoperable AC- and DC-ready microgrid that is autonomous, off-grid operational, and able to connect to an electrical distribution grid with utility oversight.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The “electrification of everything” & microgrids boosting utilities’ efficiency
    July 19, 2023
    Microgrids are enabling companies to find greater efficiency and reduced cost by relying less on their local utilities.|7211D2691390C9R&oly_enc_id=7211D2691390C9R

    We are moving toward an electric future…”the electrification of everything,” as the team at Schneider Electric calls it. So what does that mean for the manufacturing sector amid its digital transformation? We asked Aamir Paul, president of North America operations with Schneider Electric. Take a look…

    Smart Industry: What do you mean by the term “the electrification of everything”?

    Aamir: Our relationship with energy is changing, both on the industrial side and on the personal/residential side. We are looking to electricity as a cleaner, more efficient, and more resilient way to power our lives. This energy transition began years ago and continues to gain momentum, with federal and local regulations encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles, heat pumps, and other devices over models that traditionally use less efficient resources.

    Similar to how the internet revolutionized how we live, we need to prepare for a revolution in how we manage energy over the next 20 years—everything connected, everything electric, and every customer empowered to maximize that energy. New technologies are available to make that happen, ensuring digitalization and security at the local level, as well as a more intelligent grid to make that level of electrification a reality.

    Smart Industry: How does this new electric future align with the digital transformation of industry?

    Aamir: With the technology available, it’s possible for every company to be more resilient. The first step is to empower each company to be more responsible in how they use energy. Many are starting at the process level, but others are expanding to the building or company level in their digital transformation.

    As we focus on transforming the industrial space, this push to electrify everything brings digitalization to operations that offer new levels of insight into machine or system performance. This new data can optimize that equipment, driving greater efficiency. System-digitalization benefits the company by using more reliable and less expensive electricity to reduce costs, and also provides data-driven adjustments for increased operational efficiency, reducing costs even further. It’s clear: digital makes the invisible visible.

    Expanding a bit wider, we know that only 40% of buildings are smart buildings. Companies already digitizing their processes can look to their buildings to identify efficiency using digital controls and building-management systems.

    Other companies are taking their digital transformation further, looking to alternative energy sources for savings. In the US, large companies are owning their energy resiliency and security, leveraging renewables with a grid backup. The result: the US has the largest number of microgrid projects in the world. With digital tools managing this local generation, companies are finding greater efficiency and reduced cost by relying less on their local utilities.

    Smart Industry: Why is this a critical moment in terms of our electrical infrastructure? What about this approach enables a more intelligent grid?

    Aamir: We have seen the fragility of the nationwide grid and the impacts it has on people and businesses, recently with fires in California, freezing temperatures in Texas, and hurricanes on the east coast. 20th century grids won’t deliver 21st century decarbonization goals.

    Today, electricity makes up only 20% of the energy we consume. In the next 20 years, that number will jump to between 40-60%. We realize this is a critical moment for action, as a large section of the electrical infrastructure will be built over the next 20 years. We have a remarkable opportunity to rethink our execution to meet this challenge.

    Smart Industry: How does education come into play here?

    Aamir: We all agree that new strategies and technologies are needed to meet the growing electrical demand, but this, too, presents another bottleneck. The solutions that we recommend are newer technologies, and we don’t currently have enough trained professionals at scale to deploy and maintain them.

    We’ll need to upskill those currently in the workforce and recruit a new generation of professionals to sustain this future. Smart buildings represent 40% of buildings, so we’ll need teams of professionals with the skills to bring that to 100%. We’ll also need similarly trained professionals to move the needle of smart homes from 15-100%. These jobs will entail energy and automation on local and global scales.

    Metal shortage could put the brakes on electrification
    May 31, 2023
    Critical metal resources will deplete quickly if we are not careful.|7211D2691390C9R&oly_enc_id=7211D2691390C9R

    As more and more electric cars are travelling on the roads of Europe, this is leading to an increase in the use of the critical metals required for components such as electric motors and electronics. With the current raw material production levels there will not be enough of these metals in future – not even if recycling increases. This is revealed by the findings of a major survey led by Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, on behalf of the European Commission.

    Electrification and digitalization are leading to a steady increase in the need for critical metals in the EU’s vehicle fleet. Moreover, only a small proportion of the metals are currently recycled from end-of-life vehicles. The metals that are highly sought after, such as dysprosium, neodymium, manganese and niobium, are of great economic importance to the EU, while their supply is limited and it takes time to scale up raw material production. Our increasing dependence on them is therefore problematic for several reasons.

    Recycling fails to meet requirements
    “If recycling is to increase, cars need to be designed to enable these metals to be recovered, while incentives and flexible processes for more recycling need to be put in place. But that’s not the current reality”, says Ljunggren, who stresses that a range of measures are needed to deal with the situation. “It is important to increase recycling. At the same time, it is clear that an increase in recycling alone cannot meet requirements in the foreseeable future, just because the need for critical metals in new cars is increasing so much. Therefore there needs to be a greater focus on how we can substitute other materials for these metals. But in the short term it will be necessary to increase extraction in mines if electrification is not to be held back”, she says.


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