Microgrids are localized power grids that operate in synchrony with, or independently from, the main grid. As such, they offer resilience against both physical and cyber disruptions. A variety of microgrid designs have been developed in recent years.
Some systems are integrated into the local grid and serve discrete communities like universities and corporate campuses, while other systems are “off grid” and operate autonomously in serving single buildings or energy domains. Thus, a microgrid is not characterized by its size, but rather by its functionality. Microgrids also open up opportunities for distributed energy sources, both conventional and renewable (solar and wind) as well as storage devices such as batteries.
Whilst still in their infancy, microgrids are poised to play a strategic role in the future landscape of electricity distribution. Early movers, such as the state of Connecticut in the US, have supported the development and deployment of microgrids through pilot funding programmes. The Connecticut DEEP Microgrid Pilot Program was launched with the intention of increasing grid resilience against extreme weather. The Wesleyan University microgrid – which was the first out of nine initially financed projects to become operational – is designed to power the entire campus in the event of a major outage.