Sandia National Labs and Emera Technologies To Mainstream Community-Scale Direct Current Microgrids

An 18-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) has been signed between Sandia National Laboratories and Emera Technologies of Canada. Sandia and Emera Technologies will work on making clean, community-scale direct current microgrids mainstream.

“Alternating current microgrids are increasingly being used throughout the world, but a large and growing portion of generation, storage and electricity use in homes is DC, requiring a conversion from AC to DC to make everything work,” Emera Technologies chief executive officer Rob Bennett said. “In the future, I feel all the unnecessary conversion will go away and DC power systems or microgrids will form a large part of the country’s energy needs.”

Sandia researchers have been studying the control and stability of DC microgrids in an attempt to optimize design and performance at a lower cost. The national lab will bring a number of toosets and capabilities that can be applied to the DC microgrid research including:

  • The Secure Scalable Microgrid Testbed: a research facility housing three interconnected DC microgrids, and the Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory, where research on energy systems integration takes place;
  • The Virtual Power Plant: software that anticipates the performance of energy storage and sources and determines how to optimize operations and power balance; and,
  • The Microgrid Design Toolkit: software which examines the optimal layout of a microgrid, its topology, performance, reliability, and resilience.

“There are demonstrated vulnerabilities with the grid in the United States and elsewhere. Large scale outages that have recently impacted the electricity supply for entire islands are very good examples of the type of problems we need to prevent or mitigate for the safety and security of our country. With this CRADA we’re trying to address what the future of energy is going to look like,” said Sandia program manager Amy Halloran.