What are the software challenges microgrid clusters face? Michael Carlson, president of Siemens Digital Grid NA, answers that question at Microgrid 2018 in an interview with Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge editor-in-chief.
Microgrids are based on the concepts of reliability, efficiency, and resiliency. But as Siemens’ Michael Carlson pointed out, the industry is beginning to understand that these same microgrids and microgrid programs can be even more efficiently and effectively utilized when they are “integrated” or clustered.
This integration means projects aren’t just limited to serving the customer’s need from a microgrid delivery perspective, but also work “in conjunction with and in alignment with the utility whose operating the grid that surrounds it,” Carlson said.
In other words, clustering microgrids means taking an asset — in this case, a microgrid — that is designed to do one thing, and extending its capabilities into other areas.
Carlson pointed out that Commonwealth Edison is a utility leader in microgrid clusters, as illustrated by its project under development on the south side of Chicago. The Bronzeville microgrid will be connected to a microgrid already in operation at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), creating what’s expected to be the first utility-scale microgrid cluster in the nation. Approved by state regulators in early March, the $25 million Bronzevillle project is expected to demonstrate what some see as an eventual retooling of today’s centralized electric system into a grid-of-microgrids.
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The project will serve not only the local community, but also the overall ComEd grid, Carlson explained.
When asked about the challenges involved in microgrid clusters Carlson said, “They aren’t insurmountable,” but do “bring in another dynamic of control and coordination.”
“Whenever you take a single controlled asset and have two people that are interested in the control, you also have to have the alignment and rules and the objectives clearly understood,” Carlson said.
Software from providers like Siemens make control and coordination efforts easier. (Note: ComEd has selected Siemens microgrid software as the platform to manage the cluster.)
“If you look at clustering a microgrid or integration of microgrids, the first thing you need is information. And so the first thing we bring is that software platform that can combine for ComEd operators the view of not only what they’re grid operations look like, but what the specific microgrid situation is at any given real time,” said Carlson.
So first, the software platform provides situational awareness to the operators and decision makers. Further, Carlson explained, it addresses all the different variables presented to microgrid cluster operators. For example, where to get, use and send power, as well as elements of supply and demand.
Software works to “bring everything together” across the entire microgrid cluster, including multiple stakeholders and strategies.
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