These energy systems are typically connected to the central power grid, but can break off and operate independently using local energy generation powered by distributed generators, batteries or other renewable resources.
A group of researchers from Lehigh University, the Global Energy Interconnection Research Institute North America and Zhejiang University in China are working to improve microgrids, developing a new robust direct current (DC) microgrid system that can deliver energy safely without interruptions from inclement weather or system overload due to peak consumption.
Most DC systems—where energy moves in one direction—are vulnerable to sudden changes, including changes in load that can cause a voltage overload.
The team enhanced a microgrid with a single-DC source in such a way that it functions as a safe and reliable electricity source. They did this by aligning several energy sources in parallel and basing the microgrid on a decentralized control algorithm.
“In order to create parallel DC microgrids that function safely and efficiently, focus should be placed on two things,” Wenxin Liu, PhD, a corresponding author and associate professor with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Lehigh University, said in a statement. “One is the regulation of voltage and one is the amount of electricity that is shared among users in a network.”
Decentralized control means there is not a single point within the grid where a decision is made. Instead, each point within the grid makes its own decision, ultimately resulting in output that is an aggregate response of all of the nodes.
The new setup enables the researchers to produce a microgrid that delivers a substantial amount of electricity while avoiding system overloads and potential shutdowns.
“The parallel operation of distribution generators offers several advantages including expandability, reliability, efficiency, and ease of maintenance,” Liu said. “This single-energy-source topology has a wide range of applications within electrical power systems of avionics, automotive, telecom, marine, and rural areas.”
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