- Duke Energy has developed a microgrid serving Charlotte Fire Station 24, located nearby the company's McAlpine substation where it tests solar and battery-storage technologies.
- It is the first microgrid developed using only standard utility equipment, and operates strictly on the utility side of the meter, the company told Triad Business Journal.
- Component and code standardization is expected to help move microgrids out of laboratories and into mainstream commercialization, with capacity in the United States expected to reach almost 3,000 MW by 2020.
Duke's new microgrid, which the company has been operating since July, is relatively small — it operates off a 50 kW battery the utility installed at ther McAlpine substation. But the project's significance goes beyond just keeping the lights on at Station 24.
Duke spent a year developing the microgrid using only standard utility components and writing the code in-house in an effort to reduce the time and cost needed to develop a microgrid. Typically individualized builds with custom parts, the Duke team says its aim was to devise processes and designs that allow for microgrid planning and deployment with minimal changes to utility operations or structure.
“I call it the microgrid for the rest of the world,” senior project manager Tom Fenimore told Triad Business News.
There is growing interest in microgrids for military and university applications, and ultimately large commercial and industrial customers are expected to invest in the systems as well. Current microgrid capacity in the United States is just shy of 1,300 MW, but according to Greentech Media research the market should grow to 2,800 MW in the next five years. More common and standard designs will help propel the market forward.
“In a market where every project is very different, it makes it difficult to produce the standardized, cookie-cutter platform which is often sought-after,” Omar Saadeh, a senior analyst with GTM, told Utility Dive over the summer.
The bulk of microgrids operational today are below 1 MW of capacity, but GTM expects that to change. Thus far, larger projects have made headlines, including: a 160 MW military grid in Georgia, the University of Texas at Austin's 137 MW grid, and San Diego Gas & Electric's 26 MW grid serving Borrego Springs.