POWER-GEN session details challenges of microgrid development

Microgrids have suddenly become a hot topic, but why? The five speakers in Tuesday afternoon’s session titled “Tuning Microgrids for Optimized Power Generation” shed some light on why there is increased interest in microgrids by electric utilities and their customers. They talked about where they see microgrids going and the challenges and possibilities that are popping up along the way. The main take away from the session are that the changing electric energy landscape that includes the emergence of prosumers has created a need for microgrids and that collaboration between energy suppliers and energy consumers is a must.

Chris Dunlap of Schneider Electric was the first speaker out of the block.

“I want to start by saying I think the microgrid space is one of the most exciting areas of power generation,” Dunlap said. “It represents a new frontier.”

Prosumers are utility customers of all sizes who both produce and consume electricity. They are looking for one or more of three things, Dunlap explained. They need reliable and resilient electricity supply, a reasonable cost electricity supply and/or a sustainable source of electricity. Every prosumer is different, each has different supply and load, which makes each microgrid unique.

Dunlap also talked about the two business and delivery models for microgrids. When a company hires a supplier to develop and build the microgrid, but retains ownership of the facility and handles it operation and maintenance, that company has selected the CAPEX, or EPC, business model. If a company selects a supplier or partner to develop, build and own the microgrid, as well as operate and maintain it then buy the power from it through a power purchase agreement, that company has selected the OPEX, or microgrid as a service model.

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