Microgrid for Neighborhoods: How Soon?

Microgrids 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.  This article originally appeared on EnergyEfficiencyMarkets.com.

Views: 224

Tags: Ontario, microgrids

Comment

You need to be a member of Home Energy Pros to add comments!

Join Home Energy Pros

Comment by Leo Klisch on April 3, 2014 at 3:34pm

I would like to see a similar pilot project at my local electric cooperative in central Minnesota. So thanks for the the information.

Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros was founded by the developers of Home Energy Saver Pro (sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy,) and brought to you in partnership with Home Energy magazine.

Latest Activity

Jason Hiep commented on Home Energy Magazine's blog post Lighting Services for Aliens
"I think the article with good content, to bring people closer to Clean Energy.Thanks for…"
2 hours ago
Tom White posted a video
5 hours ago
peter chang posted a discussion

Programmable tstat for electric baseboard?

Ok, just want to throw this out there. I live in the high desert, 6800' or so. My house is pretty…See More
8 hours ago
Robert Haverlock replied to Hal Skinner's discussion How much heat energy is lost through the floor of a house?
"I feel like I'm preaching to the choir! So here it goes. In recent years, Building America and…"
10 hours ago
Maria Lacey replied to Linda Wigington's discussion Low-cost electricity monitoring: Accuracy & Applications in the group 1000 Home Challenge
"Steve, Thank you for posting the description of your installation process and photos of the final…"
12 hours ago
Everblue's blog post was featured

RESNET Combustion Safety Deadline is Near

An important deadline is looming for existing HERS Raters. By January 1, 2015, all existing Raters…See More
13 hours ago
Sean Lintow Sr's blog post was featured
13 hours ago
Amanda Hatherly replied to Chad Mcaulife's discussion BPI QCI Cert.
"Hello, I am the Director of one of the WAP training centers (New Mexico EnergySmart Academy) in New…"
14 hours ago

© 2014   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service