Microgrid for Neighborhoods: How Soon?

PowerStream microgridMicrogrids may be the future of the North American electric grid, but when will that future arrive – especially for the homeowner?

A team led by Ontario utility PowerStream is trying to find out with a new test project.

“A lot of the microgrid projects that you read about are typically large projects, hundreds of kilowatts, megawatts, running a whole university, a whole hospital, a whole military base,” said Mario Bottero, co-founder and president of RoseWater Energy Group, which provided the project’s energy storage hub.

Instead, the PowerStream project aims for “a true microgrid – micro – small, localized, specific” that can be scaled up to many homes or even buildings, he said in a recent interview.

Interested in microgrids? Join out new LinkedIn Group, Microgrid Knowledge, and keep up with the latest on this emerging energy choice.

Located at PowerStream’s corporate headquarters north of Toronto, the initial phase is now in operation. It serves just seven kW of average demand from lighting, air conditioning, refrigeration and other common energy uses. The goal is to simulate what a house might draw in a microgrid. Power comes from a 17-kW solar array, a 1.8-kW wind turbine and a 35-kW natural gas-fired turbine. The system operates with lithium, lead-acid and sodium nickel chloride batteries. The microgrid can connect to the grid or island when necessary.

Phase two includes a level three car charging station powered by solar. Future phases may incorporate fuel cells and combined heat and power.  The idea is “keep pushing the envelope and incorporate products that aren’t necessarily widely used now, and see how they work,” Bottero said.

The project is one of several ways Ontario is exploring aspects of microgrid. Canadian Solar recently opened a microgrid test center in Ontario, and the provincial government has a solicitation now on the street for energy storage. The province also has installed smart meters in most homes and small businesses and has shut down coal-fired plants and fostered solar through feed-in tariffs and other long-term contracts.

What’s coming

Mass market microgrids don’t yet offer the return on investment required – but it’s coming, according to Rosewater, which offers energy storage and management systems for utilities and the high-end residential market.

“We are talking to real estate developers here who are trying to incorporate solar into the mortgage, so that you can amortize it over 20 years. I think that is the logical progression, as well, for creating the microgrids,” Bottero said.

The company sees the rise of microgrids as a complement, not a disruption to the utility macrogrid – an increase in energy efficiency. Microgrid offers a way to better manage the demand-side – how homeowners or buildings use power, according to William Gotts, RoseWater’s CEO. “That is why RoseWater has focused on the residential aspect; we really feel like that is the future,” he said.

Utilities in many cases are resisting the idea of microgrid, especially in the US. Rosewater hopes to change the way utilities look at microgrid for the mass market, but acknowledges that transformation is at least a few years away.

“If we are successful in the market, we will change the way utilities do business. We have to do it organically. It has to be a slow process. It has to be a lot of proving what we say is true. That’s baby steps,” Bottero said.

So don’t expect a microgrid to be coming to your neighborhood quickly– but keep an eye on Ontario for what it might look like when it does arrive.

Other companies participating in the PowerStream microgrid trial include: General Electric, Enbridge, Enviro-Energy Technologies, Navigant Consulting, renewz sustainable solutions and SMA. More details, including a video, are available on PowerStream’s website

Sign up for our newsletter and get the latest microgrid news and analysis.
Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

Comments

  1. I have long supported the idea of micro grids. We have the technology, we have the funding (initially) now it is time to educate. Some (not all) utilities support micro grid development but the real problem at present is the lack of regulatory oversight allowing for deployment to take place. Most utility commissions will agree that new standards and policies need to be introduced whereby county zoning planners can incorporate new regulations in support of the micro grid concept. Without these regulatory efforts taking place, micro grid will stall and fail. Education is the key.

  2. Bob Pauls says:

    The micro grid needs to connect with the regional grid. Research continues to indicate that net metering or possible alternatives such as Value of Solar Tariffs (VOST) make for economic viability. Consider the recent Minnesota’s Public Utility Service’s implementation.
    http://cleantechies.com/2014/03/25/minnesota-value-solar-process-confirms-net-metering-fair-deal/

  3. You need to mzke sure yoou window is strong enough to
    hld the weight of the unit,in other words, make sure you window is not rotting.

    Some experts argue that windowless air conditioners are significantly weaker than their stated BTUs
    and cooling capabilities. One of those reasons is that they have less BTU than other windows units, so if
    you decide to buy a portable unit, you should buy one that
    is higher than you need to get the cool air you realkly want.

  4. Resourcing issues doesn’t have to prevent you from buying great EPOS systems.
    It becomes easy to manage the records of each and every assignment.

    Wal-Mart’s senior management team has a depth of knowledge with the average experience being over 20 years.

Trackbacks

  1. […] analyzed by Navigant include: BC Hydro, DONG Energy, Electricite Reseau Distribution France, PowerStream, Sacramento Municipal Utility District and TDX Power. The investor-owned utilities include: Arizona […]

  2. […] second-largest municipal utility, PowerStream, was the first utility in North America to announce a microgrid offering under a business model it refers to as DBOOME—design, build, operate, maintain, and energize. […]

  3. […] utility-scale microgrid marks the latest inroad of PowerStream into the microgrid market. In 2013, PowerStream became one of the first utilities of its size in North America to initiate a […]

Leave a Comment

*