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Introduction to microgrids

A microgrid refers to distributed energy resources and loads that can be operated in a controlled, coordinated way; they can be connected to the main power grid, operate in “islanded” mode or be completely off-grid.

Microgrids are low- or medium-voltage grids located at or near the consumption sites. They can generate power from both renewable and conventional sources and although they are mainly electrical systems, they can also incorporate a thermal energy component, such as combined heat and power. Microgrids are increasingly being equipped with energy storage systems, as batteries become more cost competitive. The system is controlled through a microgrid controller incorporating demand-response so that demand can be matched to available supply in the safest and most optimized manner. A flywheel or battery-based grid stabilizing system can be included to offer real and reactive power support.

The concept of a microgrid is not new: the earliest electricity networks were essentially microgrids before they were joined into regional and national grids. What is new is their changing and expanding role, in the face of rising power demands, the falling cost of renewable sources, and the increasing need for supply resilience and autonomy – both on- and off-grid.

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