Validating Before Operating: Digital Twins and Microgrids

May 2, 2023
John Francis from ETAP explains why your microgrid should have a digital twin.

A digital twin saves microgrid owners time and money by allowing them to learn from the past, understand the present and better predict the future, according to John Francis, vice president of business development and marketing at ETAP.

As a lead up to Microgrid 2023, Francis recently sat down with Elisa Wood, editor-in-chief of Microgrid Knowledge, to discuss digital twin technology and how it can be applied to microgrids.

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin is a way of simulating what you’ll be doing in the real world, according to Francis. It’s a digital representation of your entire microgrid that allows you to test the feasibility, safety, reliability and commercial viability of your microgrid.

“Anything you want to do in the real world, you can simulate it beforehand,” Francis said, adding that you can also learn from both the historical and real-time data captured by the digital twin.

Validation before operation

There are a number of reasons why you would want to validate your microgrid before you operate it in the real world, according to Francis, one of which is confirming the technical feasibility of your project.

A digital twin can show you how your renewable energy resources will interact with each other in both a steady state and should you need to island from the grid during an outage.

It can also instantly validate the microgrid controller’s logic, eliminating the need for someone to manually update and validate any changes that might need to be made to optimize the performance of your microgrid.

This level of control allows you to improve the resiliency and reliability of your microgrid because you have better foresight of what's going to happen when your microgrid is operational.

Refining your estimations

According to Francis, there are two major issues he sees with microgrids that don’t employ digital twins – overestimation and underestimation.

Microgrid projects from very simplified models tend to show a broad understanding of load, Francis said, but those simple models don’t provide enough technical detail of the load or the source.

Instead, you're dealing with a lot more estimations, and, according to Francis, “that can increase cost because you're trying to cover load based on estimated data as opposed to accurate, detailed data.”

Learn more about microgrids at Microgrid 2023: Lights On!, which will be held May 16-17 in Anaheim, California.

About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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