A Microgrid is a sustainable and reliable energy system comprising of a number of different energy sources capable of seamlessly operating on or off the provincial grid. These loads are typically located in close proximity, and may include a single customer or load center such as a hospital, school or campus. The generation side consists of renewable and sustainable sources.
Microgrid provide customers with energy choices that are sustainable, resilient, scalable, local, reliable, resilient and economical.
In the future, as Microgrid technology becomes more prevalent, Microgrid will improve the security of the larger electricity grid at a local or even regional level by helping to support the grid during major power failures. They will also ensure reduction of carbon footprint as more and more green and sustainable generation sources are included as part of the solution. The Microgrid gives customers control options to manage their electricity supply.
The term 'Smart Grid' refers to the modernization of the electricity transmission and distribution system so that it automatically monitors, protects and optimizes the operation of its interconnected elements.
A Microgrid is a sustainable and reliable energy system comprising of a number of different energy sources capable of seamlessly operating on or off the provincial grid. Microgrid use smart grid technologies to enable the development of and operation of Microgrids.
Microgrids are gaining momentum with many segments including large corporations, universities, schools, hospitals military, large industrial and municipality owned buildings. As Microgrid component technologies (such as storage systems) become lower costing and more advanced, Microgrids will become more attractive to smaller sized customers.
Alectra Utilities (formerly PowerStream) Microgrid Demonstration Project:
Alectra Utilities believes that Microgrids can help create a safe, sustainable and reliable energy future. The company believes that Microgrids will change the way electricity is distributed, provide an innovative solution to the challenge of asset renewal in large-scale electricity delivery systems and demonstrate how renewable energy can effectively help to address the growing demand for electricity.
With the implementation of the an integrated Microgrid demonstration project in November 2013, Alectra Utilities has become one of the first utilities of its size in North America to initiate a proof-of-concept trial, evaluating Microgrid’s performance while it is connected to, or disconnected from and reconnected back to the provincial electricity delivery system.
The Alectra Utilities Microgrid is small in size yet flexible and scalable. It has the ability to work in isolation or be integrated with the grid, as desired by the customer. Seamless transition for the Microgrid on and off the provincial grid makes this Microgrid different that standard remotely located electricity distribution systems (e.g. diesel generator based supply for remote communities).
There are four major categories of components that are part of the Alectra Utilities Microgrid project are:
- Consumption (or load)
The 1.8kW turbine is located just outside the Alectra Utilities office in Vaughan. Wind power output is intermittent, and Alectra Utilities is interested in evaluating how the integrated system responds to generation whose output can vary considerably over short timeframes. When disconnected from the grid, other Microgrid resources, such as battery storage must make up the difference in output, including absorbing excess output during periods of low electricity demand. The Microgrid's smart control system is designed to balance the supply from the system's generation resources with the demand of the system's load, and Alectra Utilities will evaluate the effectiveness of these systems throughout 2014.
Like the wind turbine, the 17 KW solar PV panels are located just outside the Alectra Utilities office in Vaughan. Solar power output is also intermittent, and Alectra Utilities is interested in evaluating how the integrated system responds to generation whose output can vary considerably over short timeframes. When disconnected from the grid, other Microgrid resources, such as battery storage must make up the difference in output, including absorbing excess output during periods of low electricity demand. The Microgrid's smart control system is designed to balance the supply from the system's generation resources with the demand of the system's load, and Alectra Utilities will evaluate the effectiveness of these systems throughout 2014.
Alectra Utilities is interested in evaluating all forms of solar technologies, including those which integrate with other common applications or system, such as enclosed or covered parking. By including solar in the initial design phase of a new development project that includes enclosed parking and integrated Microgrid components, the project is greener and more sustainable. It also makes better use of limited space in congested areas.
With 5 KW power, a two car design, such as the one installed at the Alectra Utilities office in Vaughan, can generate enough power for two vehicles to go 20,000 kms per year on the equivalent power created.
The solar panels send electricity into the main power panel which manages how the power is then distributed. When the EV chargers are being used, the power generated either by the solar panels, stored by the backup battery systems or generated by the wind or gas generator are used to supplement the grid power available.
Just over two days, from start to finish.
The Sunny Island inverter by SMA produces continuous, reliable off-grid power from renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydro. As part of the Microgrid, it is an intelligent system manager that creates a high-quality, self-sufficient AC grid and protects sensitive batteries, extending system life. Equally adept at grid-tied back up, the Sunny Island system can also be easily designed to provide reliable power in the case of a grid outage.
Alectra Utilities is interested in evaluating a broad cross section of technologies for the Alectra Utilities Microgrid Demonstration project, including renewable and conventional generation. More importantly, the natural gas generator also is capable of providing continuous power when the solar or wind generators are not operating or producing a small amount of power. Further, in scenarios where battery back-up power has been exhausted, the amount of time a Microgrid can operate while disconnected from the electric utility grid can be increased.
35 kW, about equivalent to running 7 – 10 average sized homes.
The natural gas generator will operate only when the Microgrid is disconnected from the grid. Further, it will depend on the weather, namely the amount of sunlight and wind. The more sunshine and wind there is, the less the gas generator will need to run.
Storage is an important part of Microgrid and bridges the gap between the timing of renewable generation and consumption. The Alectra Utilities Microgrid project includes three different types of batteries: Lead Acid (23 KWh), Lithium Ion (5 KWh) and Sodium Nickel Chloride (12 KWh). The Alectra Utilities Microgrid project also includes solar photovoltaic and wind generation, each of which operates intermittently. The batteries are capable of providing continuous power when the solar or wind generators are not operating or producing a small amount of power. Batteries also increase the amount of time a Microgrid can operate while disconnected from the electric utility grid, as they store electric energy and discharge the energy when other sources are unavailable. Further, batteries can "start" the Microgrid if it becomes disconnected from the electric grid with Microgrid generators off line (black start operating mode).
The load for the Alectra Utilities Microgrid is around 9 KW and consists of the following:
- Cafeteria: Refrigeration, Lighting, Microwave
- Defrost Heater, exhaust fan hoods
- Humidification System for entrance
- Electric Vehicle Charging
Although the smart control system is not highly visible (compared to solar PV and wind turbine), it nonetheless is a critical component of the Alectra Utilities Microgrid. The Microgrid Control System (MCS) is based on a supervisory control architecture providing the ability to monitor, track, and forecast load, generation and storage resources throughout the Microgrid. The MCS maximizes the use of renewables to provide power to the load in the most economical method possible in both grid-connected and islanded mode scenarios.
Plans for a Microgrid demonstration project originated in September 2012, when Alectra Utilities recognized the many complementary benefits such a project could provide to Alectra Utilities' overall Smart Grid plan and other Smart Grid projects. In early 2013, Alectra Utilities developed the concept for the Alectra Utilities Microgrid project and then contacted local equipment suppliers, other utilities, contractors and consultants interested in participating in the project, including contributing financially to the project. Project design was completed over this past spring and summer, with equipment ordered and installed shortly thereafter. The fact that the project was successfully installed over a short time frame underscores the commitment and effort of project participants.
Each of the participants provided expertise as stated below and worked closely with Alectra Utilities in 2013 to ensure that the project would be completed on schedule.
- Enbridge Gas has contributed to the Alectra Utilities Microgrid project with VIK expertise as well as resources towards the natural gas generator.
- Enviro-Energy Technologies (EET) is a leader in Grid-Integration Technologies. EET provided System Architecture and System Integration for the Alectra Utilities Microgrid project.
- GE Digital’s contribution to the Alectra Utilities Microgrid project included the Microgrid Control System (MCS ) technology and engineering design services to assure all distributed energy resources (DER) were integrated into a common control platform.
- Navigant was retained by Alectra Utilities to provide project management, reporting, technical advisory, and evaluation services for the Alectra Utilities Microgrid project.
- Rosewater Energy Group has partnered with Alectra Utilities to provide a next-generation energy storage system using Lithium Ion and Sodium Nickel Chloride technology. The HUBs will provide real time data and determine the immediate value of highly distributed energy storage.
- Renewz Sustainable Solutions provided the unique solar carport solution with Electric Vehicle charging capabilities. The carport designed for the Alectra Utilities Microgrid project features Tigo DC optimized solar modules by Silfab to maximize power output under fully or partially shaded conditions.
- SMA Canada brought in three Sunny Island inverters, which act as the intelligent system manager, creating a high-quality, self-sufficient AC grid and protecting sensitive batteries, thereby extending system life.
The Alectra Utilities Microgrid project includes sophisticated control systems that allow the system to operate under a variety of configurations and conditions. During this initial phase, the primary operating modes Alectra Utilities is evaluating is the ability to operate the Microgrid while disconnected from the electric utility grid, and to seamlessly reconnect without disrupting loads or electric performance. Please refer to our web site for additional information and a description of the various operating modes developed for the Microgrid control system.
The initial phase of the Alectra Utilities Microgrid project that started operation in November 2013 is designed to demonstrate basic functionality, including the capability to operate while disconnected from the electric utility grid. In 2014 and beyond, Alectra Utilities will further test the system under different operating scenarios, which will include minimizing costs of operation, maximizing use of renewables, and reducing peak loads. Alectra Utilities will also collect data that will analyze the performance of the system, including "lessons learned". We expect to include new generating technologies such as fuel cells and electric vehicles to grid support. Over the longer term, Alectra Utilities expects to install a Microgrid on a larger scale, one that will connect directly to power lines and that will serve larger loads.