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Welcome to the main page of the Microgrids, a wiki-style deliverable that aims to provide access to existing EPRI available resources, deliverables, and ongoing research on microgrid technology, integration, demonstration project, design guidebooks, with deeper technical details. This page is jointly developed by two programs at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Energy Storage and Distributed Generation (Program 94) Distributed Generation and Microgrid (P94G) and Distributed Energy Resources Integration (Program 174) DERMS and Microgrid Integration (P174C).

Microgrid subpages will be added on the ongoing basis. This year the focus is on developing microgrid implementation types that provides high level information on common microgrids types, definitions, primary objectives, examples, and associated component design considerations

Description Access Status
Microgrid Implementation Types Database P94G & P174C Periodically updated
Microgrid Case Studies P94G Only Periodically updated


Historically, power grids in the U.S. and Canada were built according to the traditional, centralized structure of generation, transmission, distribution, and end user. Power is generated at large power plants, usually located away from the major population centers, with electricity transported across long distances to the end user. Although this worked well for over a century, the system is now under strain due to aging assets, an energy-hungry modern society that needs uninterrupted supplies and changing climatic conditions that are instigating a rise in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Utilities upgraded, modernized, strengthened and maintained the distribution grid, but largely kept the same structure and layout. Due to the integration of weather-based green energy resources in the current electricity grids, and technology advancement in communication, control and operation, the industry and governments are now looking at modern approaches to manage grids. The answer to tackling many of the problems faced by electrical distribution systems may lie within the microgrid, which offers a way to integrate disparate resources, build reliability and resiliency into the system, reduce grid congestion and peak loads, and provides a number of economic and environmental benefits.

What is a Microgrid?

The term “microgrid” is used to describe a number of concepts involving distributed generation (DG). However, the industry-accepted definition, from U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), describes a microgrid as: “a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources (DER) within clearly defined electrical boundaries that act as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid, and that can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected and ‘island’ mode.”

Like the traditional, centralized electric grid, microgrids generate, distribute, and regulate electricity to customers, but do so locally and on a much smaller scale. Microgrids provide “grid-interactive solutions” to utility grid flexibility and resiliency challenges associated with meeting the demand for continuous supply of electric power.

Importantly, microgrids are not a complete replacement for utility distribution infrastructure. Instead, microgrids form a self-contained organization of DGs and load management that is capable of self-balancing, when necessary, within an isolatable portion of utility or non-utility infrastructure. Individual microgrids usually operate in a grid-tied mode, with bi-directional power flow between the microgrid and the surrounding system. The ability to separate from the grid provides a backup or emergency operation mode, as well as the opportunity for greater DER investments and coordination. Microgrids may contain dispatchable and non-dispatchable renewable generation, controllable loads, energy storage, electric vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging/discharging, and advanced grid modernization technologies, such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and distribution automation.

What is Not a Microgrid?

Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) and microgrids can serve overlapping use cases but remain distinct concepts. VPPs manage individual DER as aggregated groups to provide various services to the grid; the aggregation services of a VPP can be tied to a single point of reference (e.g., limiting voltage constraints at a distribution node). There is an overlap in the technologies used, with VPPs and microgrids both possessing the ability to incorporate demand response, renewable distributed energy generation, and local storage. Both types of control require direct communication with local resources and aggregation management. However, there are some important differences:

  • VPPs are always tied to the grid and do not offer islanding functionality.
  • VPPs do not require grid-forming resources, while microgrids must have DER that can control voltage and frequency.
  • Resources managed by a VPP may operate over a wide geographical area; microgrids must operate within an electrically interconnected boundary of the distribution system.
  • Microgrids usually operate DER at a local level, whereas VPPs can be linked with wholesale markets.
  • VPPs can operate with few legal requirements, but microgrids require comprehensive political, social and legal requirements.
  • VPPs require smart metering, communication network and associated technologies, while microgrids can depend only on switches, inverters and basis controllers.

Microgrid Design and Operation Fundamentals

Design and operation of each microgrid type comes with a unique set of technical requirements. The inherent ability of microgrids to intentionally energize portions of the grid during outages brings safety challenges to the design, including back feed during unintentional islanding, and effective grounding. This section presents a broad view of components and considerations that impact the microgrid.

  • Voltage (Control/Support), Frequency (Control/Support), and Power Quality – Ability to black start, microgrid voltage, frequency, and power quality regulation within standard (ANSI, IEEE, NEC) limits during grid-connected, islanded, and transitional operating states.
  • Protection Equipment and Coordination – Ability of protection equipment within the microgrid to effectively respond to fault conditions on the microgrid, isolate, and protect equipment and people during a fault event. This includes the ability to differentiate between intentional and unintentional islanding events. Effective grounding during grid-connected and islanded states, as well as having the ability to detect fault conditions during islanding operation and black start is critical to the system protection scheme.
  • Communication – The communication infrastructure for a microgrid requires reliable connectivity between the microgrid controller and critical DER. Considerations must be made for loss of conventional telecommunication infrastructure during times of crisis. Definition and agreement upon a communication interface between the microgrid controller and utility control infrastructure (DERMS, SCADA, etc.,) may be needed. Cybersecurity must also be addressed.
  • Dispatch – External microgrid control functionality, such as interactions between microgrid controller and utility control infrastructure, and allowable DER and non-DER dispatch strategy – particularly when entering and exiting island operations – should be clearly defined.

Related Research

Resource Year
Decarbonizing Edge-of-the Grid Resilience Solutions: Microgrid Techno-Economic Analysis 2021
Optimized Integration of Large-Scale Energy Storage into Microgrids: Energy Security for Military Installations 2021
Modeling Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Energy Storage and Distributed Energy Resource Decision-Making Frameworks 2021
Progress Report on the Design, Test and Operation of an EPRI Microgrid Project at the Port Hueneme Naval Base in Ventura County, California 2020
Microgrid Valuation and Optimization Tool Update 2020
Microgrid Valuation and Optimization Tool Functional Requirements: DER Value and Optimization Within Microgrids 2019
Protection considerations for microgrids 2021
Controller Requirements for Managing Community Microgrids 2022
Laboratory Test Results of a Networked Microgrid Controller 2022
Preliminary Microgrid Design Investigation for Puget Sound Energy: Load and Generation Source Identification, Estimation, and Basic Feasibility Checks 2022
Grid Considerations for Microgrids 2021
Performance Requirements for Grid Forming Inverter Based Power Plant in Microgrid Applications 2021
Test Plan for a Networked Microgrid Controller 2021
Understanding Community Microgrids 2021
A Smart and Flexible Community Microgrid with Dynamic Boundary 2020
Microgrid Interconnection Requirements: First Edition 2020
Implementing Microgrid Control Systems: First Edition 2019
A Smart and Flexible Microgrid with Dynamic Boundary and Intelligent Open-Source Controller 2018
Applying EPRI’s Microgrid Cost-Benefit Framework: Case Studies and Lessons Learned 2018
A Cost-Benefit Analysis Framework for Evaluating Microgrids 2017
Microgrid Controller Test Plan: Grid Interactive Microgrid Controller for Resilient Communities 2017
Microgrids: Expanding Applications, Implementations, and Business Structures 2016