As the Power Supply Landscape Continues to Move Toward Renewables, Can Microgrids Boost Reliability?
According to the “2023 Summer Reliability Assessment,” published in May 2023 by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), two-thirds of North America is at risk of energy shortfalls this summer during periods of extreme demand.
While there are no high-risk areas in this year’s assessment, the number of areas identified as being at elevated risk has increased. The assessment finds that, while resources are adequate for normal summer peak demand, if summer temperatures spike, seven areas — the U.S. West, SPP and MISO, ERCOT, SERC Central, New England, and Ontario — may face supply shortages during higher demand levels.
“Increased, rapid deployment of wind, solar and batteries have made a positive impact,” said NERC. “However, generator retirements continue to increase the risks associated with extreme summer temperatures, which factors into potential supply shortages in the western two-thirds of North America if summer temperatures spike.”
While it is not uncommon for NERC to issue seasonal warnings like this, it has been doing so with increasing frequency in recent years.
This is where microgrids can play an important role.
For the sake of simplicity, there are two types of microgrids. One is customer-owned (such as by communities, industrial facilities, etc.) These can either be connected to the electric grid, or separate (“islanded”) from the grid.
The other type of microgrid is utility-owned, and these are installed and operated by utilities to provide a practical and cost-effective way to integrate local renewable energy resources; provide additional redundancy, resilience, and reliability; provide electric service in remote regions; cover sporadic outages; handle increased demand during peak demand; and more.