Microgrid Care: The Ins and Outs for a Lasting Energy System

July 31, 2019
Your microgrid is online. You learned a lot while building it. Now there’s more to learn about its maintenance. A new handbook from S&C Electric acts as a guide to the ins and outs of microgrid care for both day-to-day operations and long-term needs.

Your microgrid is online. You learned a lot while building it. Now there’s more to learn about its maintenance. A new handbook from S&C Electric acts as a guide to the ins and outs of microgrid care for both day-to-day operations and long-term needs.

Download the full report.

Who’s in charge of operations and maintenance 

If you haven’t identifed who’s responsible for troubleshooting issues and microgrid care, then you’re likely the one doing it. This might be okay if you have enough knowledge to monitor a microgrid’s intricacies. But if you question your team’s ability to handle the workload of a complex system, consider outsourcing the task to ensure you have resources dedicated to your microgrid. The report explores three options, as well as the pros and cons:

  • Do-it-yourself: You manage the day-to-day operations and microgrid care, fixing problems if they arise
  • O&M contractor: You contract to a company that specializes in monitoring microgrid systems
  • Your integratator: The people who engineered and built your microgrid also run it

Although microgrids are designed to act automatically and independently, this doesn’t eliminate the need for operations, maintenance and microgrid care. You needed to think through the complexity of creating your microgrid and must do the same when it comes to running your microgrid once it’s online. The report outlines two scenarios that present the realities of running your own microgrid.

Scenario 1

You know a device has failed somewhere in your microgrid. The system contains equipment from multiple manufacturers. Who made the device that failed? Is that manufacturer responsible for  fixing the equipment and ensuring it’s still compatible with microgrid operations? Do you have someone on your team, or go-to, on-call support, that’s familiar with the products in your microgrid, even though they’re made by various companies? If your support team members are familiar with the equipment within a gridscale application, do they know how differently it functions within a microgrid environment?

  • This scenario demonstrates the importance of defning in advance how your microgrid will be maintained and, if needed, designating the appropriate point people for particular tasks. When issues arise, you don’t want to waste time determining who should — and can — fix a problem.

“It’s always easier to expand your microgrid when you’ve considered growth from the beginning.” — S&C Electric

Scenario 2

A fault occurs within your microgrid, and the system successfully isolates it. Your microgrid remains online, so you are unaware of the fault. Later, another fault occurs at a different location within your microgrid. When paired with the isolated fault, it causes the entire microgrid to go down. Now you need to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

  • This potentially troublesome and time-consuming scenario can be avoided with real-time monitoring, which allows you to see how your system is operating at any moment. If you had visibility to the  first fault, you could have corrected the problem and gotten out in front of any subsequent faults that would have taken down the system.

The guide covers these scenarios, along with maintenance pitfalls and mistakes, including:

  • Not monitoring your system: Even if your microgrid was built perfectly, it can stop working if it’s not regularly inspected. Simple things, such as device batteries, must be checked annually. Failing to do so can lead to system failure.
  • Not designing who’s responsible: Whether you handle maintenance internally or relying on someone else, know who’s appointed for each task so maintenance doesn’t slip through the cracks.
  • Ignoring minor hiccups: Even though you have redundancy built into your microgrid, small issues can turn into big problems fast within such intricate systems.
  • Not customizing maintenance schedules: Factor into your maintenance plan the many types of components from various suppliers that have individualized requirements. These includes software updates and bug fixes, especially to accommodate continually evolving security requirements.
  • Neglecting backup inventory:  It may be too costly or space-intensive to keep backups of all equipment, but keep on hand what spare parts you can to make replacement easy.
  • Forgetting to train new staff: Staff retirement and turnover is natural, so be sure you create comprehensive training and plans for onboarding. You don’t want the knowledge of your microgrid’s needs to leave with your personnel.

The new report from S&C Electric covers the following:

  • The Realities of Running Your Microgrid
  • Who’s in Charge of Operations and Maintenance?
  • Maintenance: Common Pitfalls and Mistakes
  • Planning for Expansion

Download the new report from S&C Electric that helps utilities identify who will be operating and maintaining their microgrid as well as best practices and pitfalls to avoid.

About the Author

Guest Post

Exploring the Potential of Community Microgrids Through Three Innovative Case Studies

April 8, 2024
Community microgrids represent a burgeoning solution to meet the energy needs of localized areas and regions. These microgrids are clusters of interconnected energy resources,...

Making Money with Microgrids

How Microgrids Make Money: A Tutorial on Ways Microgrids Earn Their Keep

This presentation provides a tutorial on ancillary services, demand response, transactive energy and other ways microgrids earn their keep.