Smartgrid / Microgrid

What is SmartGrid

The need for energy savings, improved reliability, and increased capacity world-wide is stimulating the transformation of classical (passive) electric grids to smartgrids.  A smartgrid is a portion of a larger electric power system that embraces a high concentration of measurement, communication, and control.  These technologies will allow electric grids to become “smart” and also become autonomous.

The US government has provided funding to several cities in the United States to demonstrate aspects of smartgrid: Austin, TX is one of them.

Pecan Street: CEM is helping lead modeling and simulation efforts of Pecan Street, Inc.: the largest smartgrid demonstration project in Austin, TX.  This smartgrid project presents unique challenges to Austin Energy, which is seeing new levels of power-demand and energy surplus at the residential levels.  Some of these challenges are:

  1. • the high concentration of electric vehicles on the same feeder (100 Chevy Volts)

  2. • the amount of residential-level photovoltaic generation•the need for residential energy consumption patterns every 1 min.

    • penetration of renewable energy and storage at the distribution and residential levels

Austin Energy and Pecan Street, Inc. are collaborating with CEM to anticipate the challenges of smartgrids.  CEM has further joined efforts with several departments of The University of Texas at Austin: electrical, chemical, mechanical, and civil.  This combined, yet heterogeneous, expertise will result computer models to predict undesirable effects such as transformer insulation degradation, life-span reduction, overloading, and grid instability.

CEM understands the challenges of simulating such complex systems.  For this reason, CEM is helping to lead the simulation efforts for this initiative.


Dr. Robert Hebner

Dr. Robert Hebner


Microgrid Research
Microgrids are electrically and geographical small terrestrial power systems capable of operating “connected to” or “islanded from” the national grid.  The islanding capability of microgrids allows them to be self-sufficient during emergencies when it is critical to have a source of reliable power.  An emerging trait of microgrids is the penetration of renewable energy at distribution-level voltages (<35kV).  The availability of this technology is of interest to several private and public entities—but in particular to the US Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DOE).   In 2008, DoD and DOE  announced their intent to make military installations net-zero energy to the grid: installations that produce as much energy (on or near them) as they consume.  This energy can come from renewable sources or from fossil fuels.  In 2009, the US Navy responded to this goal by mandating that by 2020, 50% of the Navy’s energy consumption will come from renewable energy sources.  CEM is working with the US Navy to meet these goals.  This requires an understanding of the Navy’s requirements, the utility industry, renewable energy sources, power system analysis and simulation—but most importantly—the ability to deliver technology demonstration to show the US Navy how their energy will be managed in the future. CEM is well-positioned and committed to this delivery.

To find out more about our Microgrid Team click below.



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