North American consortium to build cross-border microgrid

A consortium of Canadian and U.S. companies, along with three utility partners, have announced its intent to build a $12.4 million multi-utility microgrid project to demonstrate how integrated transactive energy networks could work in the future.

The system will integrate wind, solar, electric vehicle charging stations, battery storage and feeder-based microgrids. It’s an ambitious project that will feed distributed energy resources (DERs) into power systems and regional wholesale markets.

According to the Microgrids Project at Berkley National Labs, microgrids are a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. They can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island-mode.

For the past five years, renewable-energy analysts have continually identified microgrids as a potential solution to solar’s and wind’s intermittency challenges, which  often make utilities skittish about adding renewable energy resources to their portfolios. Yet microgrid solutions — especially in the United States — remain rare.

The cross-border project is being handled by a consortium of companies, led by Opus One Solutions. It includes Advanced Microgrid Solutions, Emera Maine, Smarter Grid Solutions and The Centre for Urban Energy at Ryerson University. It will be funded in part by a $4 million (U.S.) contribution from Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

The developers say behind-the-meter microgrids will provide all offtakers with virtual resources capable of providing integrated demand response and advanced ancillary services. At the same time, in-front-of-the-meter microgrids will add the capabilities to perform feeder-load relief, volt/VAR optimization and conservation voltage reduction for grid operators.