The University of Texas Forms Microgrid Task Force
Electricity is becoming increasingly critical, not just for lighting, but in heating and air conditioning, food storage and preparation, transportation, banking, communications and most aspects of modern life. Outages that were once inconvenient are now more significant. It is clear that a more innovative solution is needed to meet the growth in the use of electricity and the ever more critical nature of that use. Microgrids are gaining momentum as a solution to augmenting existing utility grids.
Compared to the larger utility grid, microgrids have unique performance characteristics because they are smaller, faster, and contain all the generation and loads in a very concentrated area. Therefore, there are new research problems that need to be solved in order to have microgrids be the solution to efficiency and energy security in the world.
The research team at the University of Texas at Austin was established to find these solutions. Presently, the major technical challenges of microgrids are in control, load and source management, and studying the integration of significant stochastic sources, such as wind and solar power, and the degree to which actual electric vehicle charging is uncorrelated in a residential neighborhood. Microgrids are inherently dynamic, with variance in sources and loads. The UT Microgrid Team will seek out how to manage this time-bearing phenomenon in a very small area.
The overarching goals of the UT Microgrid Team are to make the research more effective and efficient by sharing techniques, insights, and data sets. Dr. Robert E. Hebner, Director of the Center for Electromechanics and Organizer of the UT Microgrid Research Team, is optimistic that an academic research team will serve to discover solutions to the short-term and long-term technical challenges with microgrids.
In the short-term, people are taking technologies and are developing further applications. In the long-term, these systems will encounter performance challenges, requiring new technology to enable a microgrid to integrate more efficiently with the larger grid and homes.
The UT Microgrid Team is researching these solutions in partnership with industry, military and other universities. In doing this, the team is discovering effective solutions for individual cases -- whether it is energy security at airports, in isolated towns/cities, and with natural disaster recovery.
For more information about the UT Microgrid Research Team, please visit their interactive website at www.utexas.edu/research/cem/micro_team.html.