Understanding the Benefits of Microgrids

Posted on July 26, 2016

Working under a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) grant program, D&B Engineers and Architects, P.C. (D&B) is in the process of analyzing the feasibility of constructing microgrids for three Suffolk County communities including the Village of Port Jefferson, the Village of Greenport and the Village of Southampton.

Our partners on these projects include Global Common, LLC and GE Energy Consulting (GE). Global Common, LLC is a private energy development company that has successfully developed a variety of energy projects across the Country including for the Village of Greenport. GE is a world leader in the design and implementation of microgrids and manufactures many of the components that make up a microgrid. GE has also completed at least six other feasibility studies under the NYSERDA grant program. Each feasibility study includes the following components:

  • Site Characterization and Data Collection
  • Load and Supply Analysis Modeling
  • Functional Design of Control and Communication Infrastructure
  • Benefit/Cost Analysis
  • Regulatory and Market Analysis
  • Drafting of Summary Report
Image source: Siemens

Image source: Siemens

What is a Microgrid?

A microgrid is, in many respects, a scaled down version of a standard electric grid but services a much smaller and discrete area. Each microgrid consists of an electrical generation source or sources and a distribution system (e.g. power cables, transformers, switchgear and controls). However, a microgrid differs from traditional large-scale utility grids in that the generation source and end users of the electricity are much closer resulting in dramatic increases in overall efficiency in the distribution of the electricity.

Why Microgrid?

When the regional utility grid is not functioning due to storm damage or other reasons, the community owning the microgrid can disconnect from the grid and continue to provide power to the residents and critical infrastructure such as hospitals, emergency services, water supply and wastewater treatment plants. As demonstrated most recently throughout much of the eastern seaboard during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, power outages can last for weeks after a major storm. The aftermath of Sandy was the primary motivation for NYSERDA to start the microgrid grant program.

Other microgrid benefits include:

  • Integration with renewable technologies such as wind turbines, solar, waste-to-energy and other highly efficient technologies such as fuel cells and combined heat and power (CHP) systems.
  • Battery storage of generated power can also be part of the microgrid system.
  • Under normal conditions, the microgrid is integrated into the surrounding regional utility grid and electricity generated by the microgrid can be sold back to the utility generating income.

For additional details, please contact Thomas P. Fox, P.G. at tfox@db-eng.com.