What’s the difference between a smart grid and a microgrid?

Smart grid and microgrid technology each have their own respective applications and while the names may seem similar, they are two very different concepts It’s crucial to understand both grid types as they are essential components of grid resiliency and reliability.

The main difference between the smart grid and microgrid is scale. As the name suggests, the microgrid is engineered to work in small community areas. On the other hand, the smart grid is designed to handle power supply for large communities and is the digital technology used for two-way communication between utilities and their customers, and sensors along transmission lines.

Understanding Microgrids

Microgrids have many benefits. They can operate as a local source of generation (island mode) or a component of a decentralized electricity group. In fact, a single microgrid can operate in various modes depending upon current conditions. The ability to switch between the island and connected modes allows for security to the energy supply. Microgrids increase reliability for rural communities that are geographically distanced from centralized generation and dependent upon radial supplies. Community microgrids provide power for thousands of customers.

Circuit protection is a major challenge—a microgrid struggles to control and protect the system, in turn, it is difficult to protect low short circuit systems within the grid.

There are five types of microgrids: campus environment microgrids, community microgrids, remote off-grid microgrids, military base microgrids, and commercial microgrids. Each type of microgrid is intended for a specific location.

Understanding Smart Grids

Smart grids provide electricity through two-way digital technology. The smart grid analyzes, controls, and monitors communications from the utility, via transmission lines and at the consumer level. Smart grids operate based on digital technology. The smart grid was developed to address the shortcomings of the conventional grid. The smart grid has the potential to reduce costs and maximize the transparency of the supply chain. Smart grids incorporate electric power conditioning and control of production which allow for energy efficiency. Smart grid technology is useful due to its ability to deal with climate change and energy independence scenarios. Smart grid technology can address multiple issues at once as well as act and react to specific problems independently.

Smart grid technology is highly useful in today’s energy sector. Consumers with electric vehicles benefit from smart grid technology that allows them to have lower rates when charging their vehicles. The smart grid aims to maximize the energy system output while reducing the resources needed to produce said energy.

EPE Can Help

Electric Power Engineers offers a variety of microgrid and smart grid technology services including, energy mix optimization, technical assessment, and system impact modeling. Please contact our team if your organization needs power engineering consulting support.