MICROGRID - What is it? What are the challenges? What are the prospects?

MICROGRID - What is it? What are the challenges? What are the prospects?


Progress in the innovations that are renewable energy sources (RES) and their accompanying technologies, such as energy storage, has made it possible for us today to speak of a more viable alternative to the existing solutions used to secure the energy of the economy and the country. Around the world, RES are becoming an option for transitioning to secure, cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy sources. Through their dispersion, they improve energy security on the one hand and create local added value on the other. It is worthwhile to note that they counteract adverse global and local climate change. (Pylak et al., 2017, pp. 22-27). Similarly, as in the case of market policies, public policies for the implementation of innovative solutions and technologies should be constantly analyzed and updated with regard to the possibility of pursuing the set goals through them (Hildermeier et al., 2019, p. 43). The solution for multiple generation sources regulating energy demand and supply is microgrids - an innovative and complementary component of the energy market in Poland, providing diversification of energy supplies.

The graphic that is attached shows an example of a microgrid built with multiple components. You can download it HERE.

In the article, which is quoted below, titled. "MICROGRIDS AS AN INNOVATIVE COMPONENT FOR DIVERSIFICATION OF THE ENERGY MARKET IN POLAND," dr hab. Sylwia Sysko-Romańczuk (Prof. of the Warsaw University of Technology) and dr. Grzegorz Kluj (PGE Dystrybucja S.A. Warsaw Branch) reviewed various approaches and opinions of scientists, experts and industry users, and evaluated existing examples of solutions combining conventional technologies with RES.

The result of this analysis was a positive verification of the research hypothesis that the identification and description of processes ensuring controllable continuity of microgrid operations is a key success factor for ensuring their correct market implementation.

An essential criterion for identifying and describing the key processes of a microgrid is to ensure its controllable business continuity. This is such a feature of the processes that ensures on the line of energy source-consumption-storage-distribution-consumer, controlled by the Operator, a stable/steady flow of power, even in the case of a large number of power sources located in the vicinity of offtake/load points, and coordinated islanded operation of various energy sources (wind, sun, gas (including hydrogen), heat) and consumer units. The scientific goal of the article was to identify the key processes in the organization of a microgrid based on its developed process concept. Research triangulation was used to realize the goal thus adopted.

An analysis of literature in the field of technology development management and research reports on good implementation practices of microgrid organizations in Europe and the US was used. Interviews were conducted with experts, analysts and users of the energy market to verify the adopted hypothesis. The collected material was supplemented by the authors' expert knowledge.

The main factors driving the development of RES are: falling costs of RES production and energy storage; rising electricity rates; and intensifying political efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while promoting distributed energy resources (Ryan et al., 2017, pp. 47-61). In addition, the development of local initiatives based on new players using distributed, renewable energy resources (RES) and accompanying technologies is bringing up the discussion of the inevitable change in the operation of the energy market, including the way electricity is distributed.

Definition of microgrid

A microgrid is a small energy network with distributed generation, including energy storage facilities and controllable loads (Mumtaz, Bayram, 2016, pp. 94-100). The last decade has been characterized by particularly intensive development of low-emission and renewable energy source technologies, such as combined heat and power (CHP - gas-fired), PV installations, solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells, small hydroelectric power plants, heat pumps and others. At the same time, the development of energy storage technologies in the form of various types of storage containers, such as battery storage (rechargeable batteries), kinetic FES (Flywheel Energy Storage), superconductors, supercapacitors, CAES (Compressed Air Energy Storage) systems and others is clearly visible. Together, these technologies and their associated services constitute Distributed Energy Resources (DER).

Thus, a microgrid can be created by properly organizing the listed components and services occurring in a territorially confined geographic area. It can connect and disconnect from the distribution network to which it is connected to enable it to operate in both synchronized and islanded modes (Hirsch et al., 2018, pp. 402-411). Microgrids can also integrate district heating, gas and hot water networks and related innovative services such as DSR, Aggregator and others (Study on the effective ..., 2015, pp. 118-128).

Experts say that the solution offers a number of benefits, among which the most common are: increased energy efficiency and resilience to grid power failures, cost reduction, reduction of energy transmission and distribution losses, improved safety of grid operation, reduction of CO2 emissions and environmental benefits.

As a result of the development of distributed generation, the formation of a large number of energy supply sites, bidirectional power flows and the need to install power flow control devices are occurring (Parol, 2013, p. 12). The installation of the above-mentioned devices on an increasing scale promotes the organization of their owners (individually or in groups) into organizationally separate entities, and in the long term will lead to the progressive diversification, on the one hand, and the decentralization of the power system and the creation of new services, on the other, which in turn will increase requirements for supply stability. This is related to the bidirectional flow of power and the problem of the unstable and unpredictable nature of renewable energy production (Biczel, 2011). The typical profile of electricity production from a solar power plant and a small wind power plant is characterized by high variability over time, which depends on local weather conditions, so it is extremely difficult to predict and plan production from such sources. At present, intensive efforts are underway to create weather forecast systems using artificial intelligence algorithms. This will allow more predictable planning of electricity and heat production or storage and demand planning for these types of energy.

Today's technological and organizational barriers can be surmounted by organizing microgrids. Experts suggest developing this component of the energy market in four paths (Hirsch et al., 2018, pp. 405-406; Parol, 2013, pp. 26-27): (1) large microgrids, covering specific communities, such as campuses, military facilities, (2) mid-sized microgrids, covering midsize communities, such as institutions (hospitals, universities, etc.), (3) small microgrids, such as office buildings, hotels, offices, residential buildings, (4) microgrids supplying remote areas (viewed from the side of the power supply). Each of the above-mentioned forms requires not only the use of appropriate technologies, but above all organizational methods and management actions.

działań zarządczych.

Microgrid control

A microgrid is a very small electric power system. For such a system, three levels of control can be distinguished (Hirsch et al., 2018, p. 404): level I - frequency control; level II - voltage control, level III - control enabling economic and optimization operations for the microgrid, mainly focusing on the management of energy storage, distributed generation scheduling, and the import and export of electricity between the microgrid and the power system. The control principles outlined above lack, among other things, activities related to improving energy efficiency or cooperation to popularize environmental topics, so it seems necessary to supplement the microgrid control principles with Level IV - energy management and cooperation within the microgrid, i.e. activities for reducing and balancing energy demand and supply among microgrid participants, educating and popularizing the environmental topics, including enhancing energy efficiency (Tokarčik et al., 2012, pp. 47-72).

Levels I and II are generally implemented by controllers in individual devices operating autonomously, while levels III and IV can only be implemented by a global controller managing the entire microgrid, i.e. all sources, storage systems and loads analyzing and regulating devices under the current situation of both generation and loads.

The process concept of the microgrid is based on the assumption that it can act as controllable offtake, controllable generation and controllable storage. Selected elements of the microgrid would be controlled through local controllers and coordinated by a central microgrid controller. Flows between the microgrid and the DSO would be infrequent and small. Cooperation with the DSO would be limited only to compensating for rare production shortages (emergencies) and accepting excess portions of generated electricity. The microgrid would carry out economic and optimization operations for its own needs, focusing largely on managing energy storage, distributed generation scheduling, and the import and export of electricity between the microgrid and the power system.

Currently, two research and application challenges remain urgent: (1) to develop a mechanism for energy and power management in the microgrid, which will include: measuring infrastructure, methods of regulating energy production and consumption, and power management; (2) to create efficiency mechanisms, i.e., to meet its energy needs with increasingly less energy derived from renewable sources, of course. Hence the need to implement pilot solutions testing various technological, organizational, economic and regulatory solutions for microgrids. Currently, process design in parallel with technology implementation helps avoid many problems at the stage of microgrid implementation and maintenance.

Our idea is a dedicated controller, which not only has processes but also devices, algorithms, logic, visualization designed. This will make the controller available to a wide range of clients and the lack of implementation of technology when implementing individual microgrids will help avoid mistakes that will inevitably occur during unit production.

According to their Experience with the Implementation of Microgrids for the Tauron Group, the authors of the study conclude that: "For the correct operation of the microgrid and the mutual cooperation of its components, it is necessary, first of all, to ensure reliable, proper communication between these devices, and this was successfully verified in tests. In addition, the loss of communication with some of the devices, as long as their operation is not critical, e.g. to maintain islanded operation, will not bring the operation of the microgrid to a halt, as the Microgrid Management System (MMS) can adapt to the altered conditions on an ongoing basis, which was also verified as part of the conducted tests."


"Microgrids have been around for decades, but until recently were used largely by college campuses and the military. So the total number of microgrids is relatively small but growing. Guidehouse (previously Navigant) forecasts that the market will near $39.4 billion by 2028." https://www.microgridknowledge.com/about-microgrids/article/11429017/what-is-a-microgrid

"Saying it wants to lead by example, the US Army plans to build a microgrid at each of its 130 bases worldwide as part of a larger, released climate strategy."

“The climate strategy report said that the Army has 24 microgrid projects scoped and planned through 2024 with the intent of microgridding all of its bases by 2035. The plan calls for working with adjacent communities and other stakeholders and partners to create the microgrids. 

The microgrid projects are being built in accordance with an energy and water plan that the Army released in 2020 to lower costs and make its facilities more resilient and efficient.”


The conclusion of the article https://top-oze.pl/mikrosiec-nowatorska-odpowiedz-na-energetyczne-wyzwania/ (Microgrid - an innovative answer to energy challenges - RES Industry in Poland | Top-Oze) shows the opposite end - the simplest microgrids. Microgrids that are already common and installed on a large scale in single-family homes. "Microgrids are synchronized elements, based on RES, reinforced with a traditional stabilizing source and energy storage. They allow a constant supply of power to consumers, regardless of weather or other factors that can destabilize the overall grid or cut off connected users. Something similar, on a domestic scale, can be done for your own use. The idea is to connect a photovoltaic system mounted on the roof or on the property with home energy storage system. The operation of such a system is simple. The electricity produced from sunlight first powers the appliances in operation, and if the energy consumption is less than that being generated, the surplus goes into storage. With higher demand or after dark, when the system stops working, the stored energy will be used for our needs. A kind of further development of such a system can be a heat pump. This device absorbs energy from the environment - air, soil or water - and converts it into heat. It can also heat domestic water. To operate, it needs a certain amount of electricity, which may come from domestic photovoltaics. By choosing such a mix, we can become self-sufficient - have electricity and heat of our own production. With rising fuel and energy prices, the vagaries of the weather and international turmoil, it is worth thinking of investing in our own security."

To sum up, the microgrid market is the present and future of the Polish power industry, both electric and thermal, and microgrid management systems are its most important component, and the broadly understood quality, reliability and functionality depend on them.

The market involves both installations:

  1. Large, professional and requiring a specialized approach like the military, which we can meet due to our experience in this sector (implementation of many investments and deliveries for the army including, among others, the supply of control technology for High Power Container Field Power Plants under the largest order in the history of the Polish army for this type of equipment, and the supply of a guaranteed power supply system for the largest Data Center type facility in the Ministry of National Defense, providing guaranteed power supply for key communication facilities throughout Poland). We also employ staff with security clearances, which enable us to perform contracts and view documentation with the appropriate confidentiality clause.
  2. Medium ones with a lower level of complexity for such clients as hospitals, industrial or office facilities - the experience of our organizational structures should also be confirmed here, e.g. the delivery of a power supply system with a cogeneration system to the Children's Health Center of Wielkopolska (in the Greater Poland Voivodeship) or equipment for the Hospital in the Praga District, the Hospital in Bielany, the Hospital at Niekłańska, Hospital in Pruszków, MSWiA (Central Clinical Hospital of the Ministry of Interior and Administration), the Czerniakowski Hospital (in the Czerniaków District) and the Southern Hospital in Warsaw (in the Ursynów District).
  3. Small, with the least complexity including, among others, micro-enterprises or prosumers. For this sector, the functionality of a dedicated, predefined controller is particularly important because the installer is not able to cope with highly complicated PLC programming and implementation. The implementation of such a controller is very time- and cost-intensive. To date, no one yet offers non-integrated controllers in this market segment and our design, on which we have embarked upon R&D work, will be the first on this market.
  4. Typical power generation installations where we will be able to integrate several sources or storage units/systems. Given our experience in building, among other things, CHP plants (the largest biogas CHP project acquired and completed, as well as the construction of a natural gas CHP plant), we can offer integration with further sources in this sector of the market, including photovoltaics, wind, existing coal-fired boilers, hydrogen generation or energy storage.

The prominence of the microgrid issue is part of Poland's energy security strategy, which is heavily dependent on the diversification of fuel supplies: coal, oil and natural gas. Microgrids can be another element of energy supply diversification, replacing fossil fuels to some extent.

Reteco's goal is to promote, design and sell microgrids and offer end-to-end solutions based on our controllers. Thanks to many years of experience in the energy industry of all Reteco shareholders, we will design and implement any microgrid in Poland.