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A microgrid is a local electrical grid with defined electrical boundaries, acting as a single and controllable entity. [1] It is able to operate in grid-connected and in island mode. [2] [3] A 'Stand-alone microgrid' or 'isolated microgrid' only operates off-the-grid and cannot be connected to a wider electric power system. [4]


A grid-connected microgrid normally operates connected to and synchronous with the traditional wide area synchronous grid (macrogrid), but is able to disconnect from the interconnected grid and to function autonomously in "island mode" as technical or economic conditions dictate. [5] In this way, they improve the security of supply within the microgrid cell, and can supply emergency power, changing between island and connected modes. [5] This kind of grids are called 'islandable microgrids'. [6]

A stand-alone microgrid has its own sources of electricity, supplemented with an energy storage system. They are used where power transmission and distribution from a major centralized energy source is too far and costly to operate. [1] They offer an option for rural electrification in remote areas and on smaller geographical islands. [4] A stand-alone microgrid can effectively integrate various sources of distributed generation (DG), especially renewable energy sources (RES). [1]

Control and protection are difficulties to microgrids, as all ancillary services for system stabilization must be generated within the microgrid and low short-circuit levels can be challenging for selective operation of the protection systems. An important feature is also to provide multiple useful energy needs, such as heating and cooling besides electricity, since this allows energy carrier substitution and increased energy efficiency due to waste heat utilization for heating, domestic hot water, and cooling purposes (cross sectoral energy usage). [7]


The United States Department of Energy Microgrid Exchange Group [8] defines a microgrid as a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources (DERs) within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both connected or island-mode.

The Berkeley Lab defines: "A microgrid consists of energy generation and energy storage that can power a building, campus, or community when not connected to the electric grid, e.g. in the event of a disaster." A microgrid that can be disconnected from the utility grid (at the 'point of common coupling' or PCC) is called an 'islandable microgrid'. [6]

A EU research project [9] describes a microgrid as comprising Low-Voltage (LV) distribution systems with distributed energy resources (DERs) (microturbines, fuel cells, photovoltaics (PV), etc.), storage devices (batteries, flywheels) energy storage system and flexible loads. Such systems can operate either connected or disconnected from the main grid. The operation of microsources in the network can provide benefits to the overall system performance, if managed and coordinated efficiently.

Electropedia defines a microgrid as a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources with defined electrical boundaries, which form a local electric power system at distribution voltage levels, meaning both low and medium voltage up to 35 kV. This cluster of associated consumer and producer nodes acts as a single controllable entity and is able to operate in either grid-connected or island mode. [3]

A stand-alone microgrid or isolated microgrid, sometimes called an "island grid", only operates off-the-grid and cannot be connected to a wider electric power system. They are usually designed for geographical islands or for rural electrification. [4] In many non-industrialized countries, microgrids that are used to provide access to electricity in previously unelectrified areas are often referred to as "mini grids". [10]

A typical scheme of an electric based microgrid with renewable energy resources in grid-connected mode Microgrid with RES BESS GRIDconnected.png
A typical scheme of an electric based microgrid with renewable energy resources in grid-connected mode

Campus environment/institutional microgrids

The focus of campus microgrids is aggregating existing on-site generation to support multiple loads located in a tight geographical area where an owner can easily manage them. [11] [12]

Community microgrids

Community microgrids can serve thousands of customers and support the penetration of local energy (electricity, heating, and cooling). [13] In a community microgrid, some houses may have some renewable sources that can supply their demand as well as that of their neighbors within the same community. The community microgrid may also have a centralized or several distributed energy storages. Such microgrids can be in the form of an ac and dc microgrid coupled together through a bi-directional power electronic converter. [14]

Remote off-grid microgrids

These microgrids are generally not designed or intended to connect to the macrogrid and instead operate in an island mode at all times because of economic issues or geographical position. Typically, an "off-grid" microgrid is built in areas that are far distant from any transmission and distribution infrastructure and, therefore, have no connection to the utility grid. [11] [15] Studies have demonstrated that operating a remote area or islands' off-grid microgrids, that are dominated by renewable sources, will reduce the levelized cost of electricity production over the life of such microgrid projects. [16] [17] In some cases, off-grid microgrids are indeed incorporated into a national grid or 'macrogrid', a process that requires technical, regulatory and legal planning. [18]

Large remote areas may be supplied by several independent microgrids, each with a different owner (operator). Although such microgrids are traditionally designed to be energy self-sufficient, intermittent renewable sources and their unexpected and sharp variations can cause unexpected power shortfall or excessive generation in those microgrids. Without energy storage and smart controls, this will immediately cause unacceptable voltage or frequency deviation in the microgrids. To remedy such situations, it is possible to interconnect such microgrids provisionally to a suitable neighboring microgrid to exchange power and improve the voltage and frequency deviations. [19] [20] This can be achieved through a power electronics-based switch [21] [22] after a proper synchronization [23] or a back to back connection of two power electronic converters [24] and after confirming the stability of the new system. The determination of a need to interconnect neighboring microgrids and finding the suitable microgrid to couple with can be achieved through optimization [25] or decision making [26] approaches.

Because remote off-grid microgrids are often small and built from scratch, they have the potential to incorporate best practices from the global electricity sector and to incorporate and drive energy innovation. [27] It is now common to see remote off-grid microgrids being largely powered by renewable energy and operated with customer-level smart controls, something that is not always easy to implement in the larger power sector because of incumbent interests and older, pre-existing infrastructure. [28] [29]

Military base microgrids

These microgrids are being actively deployed with focus on both physical and cyber security for military facilities in order to assure reliable power without relying on the macrogrid. [11] [30]

Commercial and industrial (C&I) microgrids

These types of microgrids are maturing quickly in North America and eastern Asia; however, the lack of well-known standards for these types of microgrids limits them globally. Main reasons for the installation of an industrial microgrid are power supply security and its reliability. There are many manufacturing processes in which an interruption of the power supply may cause high revenue losses and long start-up time. [11] [15] Industrial microgrids can be designed to supply circular economy (near-)zero-emission industrial processes, and can integrate combined heat and power (CHP) generation, being fed by both renewable sources and waste processing; energy storage can be additionally used to optimize the operations of these sub-systems. [31]

Topologies of microgrids

Architectures are needed to manage the flow of energy from different types of sources into the electrical grid. Thus, the microgrid can be classified into three topologies: [32]

AC microgrid

Power sources with AC output are interfaced to AC bus through AC/AC converter which will transform the AC variable frequency and voltage to AC waveform with another frequency at another voltage. Whilst power sources with DC output use DC/AC converters for the connection to the AC bus.

DC microgrid

In DC microgrid topology, power sources with DC output are connected to DC bus directly or by DC/DC converters. On the other hand, power sources with AC output are connected to the DC bus through AC/DC converter.

Hybrid microgrid

The hybrid microgrid has topology for both power source AC and DC output. In addition, AC and DC buses are connected to each other through a bidirectional converter, allowing power to flow in both directions between the two buses.

Basic components in microgrids

The Solar Settlement, a sustainable housing community project in Freiburg, Germany. SoSie+SoSchiff Ansicht.jpg
The Solar Settlement, a sustainable housing community project in Freiburg, Germany.

Local generation

A microgrid presents various types of generation sources that feed electricity, heating, and cooling to the user. These sources are divided into two major groups – thermal energy sources (e.g,. natural gas or biogas generators or micro combined heat and power) and renewable generation sources (e.g. wind turbines and solar).


In a microgrid, consumption simply refers to elements that consume electricity, heat, and cooling, which range from single devices to the lighting and heating systems of buildings, commercial centers, etc. In the case of controllable loads, electricity consumption can be modified according to the demands of the network.

Energy storage

In microgrid, energy storage is able to perform multiple functions, such as ensuring power quality, including frequency and voltage regulation, smoothing the output of renewable energy sources, providing backup power for the system and playing a crucial role in cost optimization. It includes all of chemical, electrical, pressure, gravitational, flywheel, and heat storage technologies. When multiple energy storages with various capacities are available in a microgrid, it is preferred to coordinate their charging and discharging such that a smaller energy storage does not discharge faster than those with larger capacities. Likewise, it is preferred a smaller one does not get fully charged before those with larger capacities. This can be achieved under a coordinated control of energy storages based on their state of charge. [33] If multiple energy storage systems (possibly working on different technologies) are used and they are controlled by a unique supervising unit (an energy management system - EMS), a hierarchical control based on a master/slaves architecture can ensure best operations, particularly in the islanded mode. [31]

Point of common coupling (PCC)

This is the point in the electric circuit where a microgrid is connected to a main grid. [34] Microgrids that do not have a PCC are called isolated microgrids which are usually present in remote sites (e.g., remote communities or remote industrial sites) where an interconnection with the main grid is not feasible due to either technical or economic constraints.

Advantages and challenges of microgrids


A microgrid is capable of operating in grid-connected and stand-alone modes and of handling the transition between the two. In the grid-connected mode, ancillary services can be provided by trading activity between the microgrid and the main grid. Other possible revenue streams exist. [35] In the islanded mode, the real and reactive power generated within the microgrid, including that provided by the energy storage system, should be in balance with the demand of local loads. Microgrids offer an option to balance the need to reduce carbon emissions with continuing to provide reliable electric energy in periods of time when renewable sources of power are not available. Microgrids also offer the security of being hardened from severe weather and natural disasters by not having large assets and miles of above-ground wires and other electric infrastructure that need to be maintained or repaired following such events. [36] [37]

A microgrid may transition between these two modes because of scheduled maintenance, degraded power quality or a shortage in the host grid, faults in the local grid, or for economical reasons. [37] [38] By means of modifying energy flow through microgrid components, microgrids facilitate the integration of renewable energy, such as photovoltaic, wind and fuel cell generations, without requiring re-design of the national distribution system. [38] [39] [40] Modern optimization methods can also be incorporated into the microgrid energy management system to improve efficiency, economics, and resiliency. [36] [41] [40] [42]


Microgrids, and the integration of DER units in general, introduce a number of operational challenges that need to be addressed in the design of control and protection systems, in order to ensure that the present levels of reliability are not significantly affected, and the potential benefits of Distributed Generation (DG) units are fully harnessed. Some of these challenges arise from assumptions typically applied to conventional distribution systems that are no longer valid, while others are the result of stability issues formerly observed only at a transmission system level. [37] The most relevant challenges in microgrid protection and control include:

Modelling tools

To plan and install microgrids correctly, engineering modelling is needed. Multiple simulation tools and optimization tools exist to model the economic and electric effects of microgrids. A widely used economic optimization tool is the Distributed Energy Resources Customer Adoption Model (DER-CAM) from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Another is HOMER (Hybrid Optimization Model for Multiple Energy Resources), originally developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. There are also some power flow and electrical design tools guiding microgrid developers. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory designed the publicly available GridLAB-D tool and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) designed OpenDSS. A European tool that can be used for electrical, cooling, heating, and process heat demand simulation is EnergyPLAN from Aalborg University in Denmark. The open source grid planning tool OnSSET has been deployed to investigate microgrids using a three‑tier analysis beginning with settlement archetypes (case‑studied using Bolivia). [47]

Microgrid control

Hierarchical Control Microgrid Hierarchical Control.png
Hierarchical Control

In regards to the architecture of microgrid control, or any control problem, there are two different approaches that can be identified: centralized [36] [48] and decentralized. [49] A fully centralized control relies on a large amount of information transmittance between involving units before a decision is made at a single point. Implementation is difficult since interconnected power systems usually cover extended geographic locations and involve an enormous number of units. On the other hand, in a fully decentralized control, each unit is controlled by its local controller without knowing the situation of others. [50] A compromise between those two extreme control schemes can be achieved by means of a hierarchical control scheme consisting of three control levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary. [36] [37] [51]

Primary control

The primary control is designed to satisfy the following requirements:

The primary control provides the setpoints for a lower controller which are the voltage and current control loops of DERs. These inner control loops are commonly referred to as zero-level control. [52]

Secondary control

Secondary control has typically seconds to minutes sampling time (i.e. slower than the previous one) which justifies the decoupled dynamics of the primary and the secondary control loops and facilitates their individual designs. The setpoint of primary control is given by secondary control [53] in which, as a centralized controller, it restores the microgrid voltage and frequency and compensates for the deviations caused by variations of loads or renewable sources. The secondary control can also be designed to satisfy the power quality requirements, e.g., voltage balancing at critical buses. [52]

Tertiary control

Tertiary control is the last (and the slowest) control level, which considers economical concerns in the optimal operation of the microgrid (sampling time is from minutes to hours), and manages the power flow between microgrid and main grid. [52] This level often involves the prediction of weather, grid tariff, and loads in the next hours or day to design a generator dispatch plan that achieves economic savings. [40] More advanced techniques can also provide end to end control of a microgrid using machine learning techniques such as deep reinforcement learning. [54]

In case of emergencies such as blackouts, tertiary control can manage a group of interconnected microgrids to form what is called "microgrid clustering", acting as a virtual power plant to continue supplying critical loads. During these situations the central controller should select one of the microgrids to be the slack (i.e. master) and the rest as PV and load buses according to a predefined algorithm and the existing conditions of the system (i.e. demand and generation). In this case, the control should be real time or at least at a high sampling rate. [43]

IEEE 2030.7

A less utility-influenced controller framework is that from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the IEEE 2030.7. [55] The concept relies on 4 blocks: a) Device level control (e.g. voltage and frequency control), b) Local area control (e.g. data communication), c) Supervisory (software) control (e.g. forward looking dispatch optimization of generation and load resources), and d) Grid layers (e.g. communication with utility).

Elementary control

A wide variety of complex control algorithms exist, making it difficult for small microgrids and residential distributed energy resource (DER) users to implement energy management and control systems. Communication upgrades and data information systems can be expensive. Some projects try to simplify and reduce the expense of control via off-the-shelf products (e.g. using a Raspberry Pi). [56] [57]


Hajjah and Lahj, Yemen

The UNDP project “Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen” (ERRY) uses community-owned solar microgrids. It cuts energy costs to just 2 cents per hour (whereas diesel-generated electricity costs 42 cents per hour). It won the Ashden Awards for Humanitarian Energy in 2020. [58]

Île d'Yeu

A two year pilot program, called Harmon’Yeu, was initiated in the Spring of 2020 to interconnect 23 houses in the Ker Pissot neighborhood and surrounding areas with a microgrid that was automated as a smart grid with software from Engie. Sixty-four solar panels with a peak capacity of 23.7 kW were installed on five houses and a battery with a storage capacity of 15 kWh was installed on one house. Six houses store excess solar energy in their hot water heaters. A dynamic system apportions the energy provided by the solar panels and stored in the battery and hot water heaters to the system of 23 houses. The smart grid software dynamically updates energy supply and demand in 5 minute intervals, deciding whether to pull energy from the battery or from the panels and when to store it in the hot water heaters. This pilot program was the first such project in France. [59] [60]

Les Anglais, Haiti

A wirelessly managed microgrid is deployed in rural Les Anglais, Haiti. [61] The system consists of a three-tiered architecture with a cloud-based monitoring and control service, a local embedded gateway infrastructure and a mesh network of wireless smart meters deployed at over 500 buildings. [62]

Non-technical loss (NTL) represents a major challenge when providing reliable electrical service in developing countries, where it often accounts for 11-15% of total generation capacity. [63] An extensive data-driven simulation on seventy-two days of wireless meter data from a 430-home microgrid deployed in Les Anglais investigated how to distinguish NTL from the total power losses, aiding in energy theft detection. [64]

Mpeketoni, Kenya

The Mpeketoni Electricity Project, a community-based diesel-powered micro-grid system, was set up in rural Kenya near Mpeketoni. Due to the installment of these microgrids, Mpeketoni has seen a large growth in its infrastructure. Such growth includes increased productivity per worker, at values of 100% to 200%, and an income level increase of 20–70% depending on the product. [65]

Stone Edge Farm Winery

A micro-turbine, fuel-cell, multiple battery, hydrogen electrolyzer, and PV enabled winery in Sonoma, California. [66] [67]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Power inverter</span> Device that changes direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC)

A power inverter, inverter or invertor is a power electronic device or circuitry that changes direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). The resulting AC frequency obtained depends on the particular device employed. Inverters do the opposite of rectifiers which were originally large electromechanical devices converting AC to DC.

Distributed generation, also distributed energy, on-site generation (OSG), or district/decentralized energy, is electrical generation and storage performed by a variety of small, grid-connected or distribution system-connected devices referred to as distributed energy resources (DER).

A DC-to-DC converter is an electronic circuit or electromechanical device that converts a source of direct current (DC) from one voltage level to another. It is a type of electric power converter. Power levels range from very low to very high.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solar inverter</span> Converts output of a photovoltaic panel into a utility frequency alternating current

A solar inverter or PV inverter, is a type of power inverter which converts the variable direct current (DC) output of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel into a utility frequency alternating current (AC) that can be fed into a commercial electrical grid or used by a local, off-grid electrical network. It is a critical balance of system (BOS)–component in a photovoltaic system, allowing the use of ordinary AC-powered equipment. Solar power inverters have special functions adapted for use with photovoltaic arrays, including maximum power point tracking and anti-islanding protection.

An energy management system (EMS) is a system of computer-aided tools used by operators of electric utility grids to monitor, control, and optimize the performance of the generation or transmission system. Also, it can be used in small scale systems like microgrids. As electric vehicle (EV) charging becomes more popular smaller residential devices that manage when a EV can charge based on the total load vs total capacity of an electrical service are becoming popular.

Electric power quality is the degree to which the voltage, frequency, and waveform of a power supply system conform to established specifications. Good power quality can be defined as a steady supply voltage that stays within the prescribed range, steady AC frequency close to the rated value, and smooth voltage curve waveform. In general, it is useful to consider power quality as the compatibility between what comes out of an electric outlet and the load that is plugged into it. The term is used to describe electric power that drives an electrical load and the load's ability to function properly. Without the proper power, an electrical device may malfunction, fail prematurely or not operate at all. There are many ways in which electric power can be of poor quality, and many more causes of such poor quality power.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Variable-frequency drive</span> Type of adjustable-speed drive

A variable-frequency drive (VFD) is a type of motor drive used in electro-mechanical drive systems to control AC motor speed and torque by varying motor input frequency and, depending on topology, to control associated voltage or current variation. VFDs may also be known as 'AFDs', 'ASDs', 'VSDs', 'AC drives', 'micro drives', 'inverter drives' or, simply, 'drives'.

Maximum power point tracking (MPPT) or sometimes just power point tracking (PPT), is a technique used with variable power sources to maximize energy extraction as conditions vary. The technique is most commonly used with photovoltaic (PV) solar systems, but can also be used with wind turbines, optical power transmission and thermophotovoltaics.

Islanding is the condition in which a distributed generator (DG) continues to power a location even though external electrical grid power is no longer present. Islanding can be dangerous to utility workers, who may not realize that a circuit is still powered, and it may prevent automatic re-connection of devices. Additionally, without strict frequency control, the balance between load and generation in the islanded circuit can be violated, thereby leading to abnormal frequencies and voltages. For those reasons, distributed generators must detect islanding and immediately disconnect from the circuit; this is referred to as anti-islanding.

Doubly-fed electric machines also slip-ring generators are electric motors or electric generators, where both the field magnet windings and armature windings are separately connected to equipment outside the machine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Smart grid</span> Type of electrical grid

A smart grid is an electrical grid which includes a variety of operation and energy measures including:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electrical grid</span> Interconnected network for delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers

An electrical grid is an interconnected network for electricity delivery from producers to consumers. Electrical grids vary in size and can cover whole countries or continents. It consists of:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Unified power flow controller</span> Electrical device for reactive power compensation on high-voltage electricity transmission networks

A unified power flow controller (UPFC) is an electrical device for providing fast-acting reactive power compensation on high-voltage electricity transmission networks. It uses a pair of three-phase controllable bridges to produce current that is injected into a transmission line using a series transformer. The controller can control active and reactive power flows in a transmission line.

Ancillary services are the services necessary to support the transmission of electric power from generators to consumers given the obligations of control areas and transmission utilities within those control areas to maintain reliable operations of the interconnected transmission system.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grid-connected photovoltaic power system</span>

A grid-connected photovoltaic system, or grid-connected PV system is an electricity generating solar PV power system that is connected to the utility grid. A grid-connected PV system consists of solar panels, one or several inverters, a power conditioning unit and grid connection equipment. They range from small residential and commercial rooftop systems to large utility-scale solar power stations. When conditions are right, the grid-connected PV system supplies the excess power, beyond consumption by the connected load, to the utility grid.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Synchronverter</span> Type of electrical power inverter

Synchronverters or virtual synchronous generators are inverters which mimic synchronous generators (SG) to provide "synthetic inertia" for ancillary services in electric power systems. Inertia is a property of standard synchronous generators associated with the rotating physical mass of the system spinning at a frequency proportional to the electricity being generated. Inertia has implications towards grid stability as work is required to alter the kinetic energy of the spinning physical mass and therefore opposes changes in grid frequency. Inverter-based generation inherently lacks this property as the waveform is being created artificially via power electronics.

Wide-area damping control (WADC) is a class of automatic control systems used to provide stability augmentation to modern electrical power systems known as smart grids. Actuation for the controller is provided via modulation of capable active or reactive power devices throughout the grid. Such actuators are most commonly previously-existing power system devices, such as high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines and static VAR compensators (SVCs) which serve primary purposes not directly related to the WADC application. However, damping may be achieved with the utilization of other devices installed with the express purpose of stability augmentation, including energy storage technologies. Wide-area instability of a large electrical grid unequipped with a WADC is the result of the loss of generator rotor synchronicity, and is typically envisioned as a generator oscillating with an undamped exponential trajectory as the result of insufficient damping torque.

A mini-grid is an aggregation of loads and one or more energy sources operating as a single system providing electric power and possibly heat isolated from a main power grid. A modern mini-grid may include renewable and fossil fuel-based generation, energy storage, and load control. A mini grid can be fully isolated from the main grid or interconnected to it. If it is interconnected to the main grid, it must also be able to isolate (“island”) from the main grid and continue to serve its customers while operating in an island or autonomous mode. Mini-grids are used as a cost-effective solution for electrifying rural communities where a grid connection is challenging in terms of transmission and cost for the end user population density, with mini grids often used to electrify rural communities of a hundred or more households that are 10 km or more from the main grid.

Commelec is a framework that provides distributed and real-time control of electrical grids by using explicit setpoints for active/reactive power absorptions/injections. It is based on the joint-operation of communication and electricity systems. Commelec has been developed by scientists at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, a research institute and university in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Commelec project is part of the SNSF’s National Research Programme “Energy Turnaround”.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gabriela Hug</span> Swiss electrical engineer (born 1979)

Gabriela Hug-Glanzmann is a Swiss electrical engineer and an associate professor and Principal Investigator of the Power Systems Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich within the Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering. Hug studies the control and optimization of electrical power systems with a focus on sustainable energy.


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