Smart grid powerhouse Siemens may be trying to position itself as the Microsoft of microgrids, by shifting its focus from the hardware on the ground to the controllers that give the systems their intelligence.
“When a microgrid is viewed in terms of its controls, it’s less about what’s in the microgrid and more about what the microgrid can do,” Microgrid Knowledge reports. Strictly defined, a microgrid is about bringing together multiple sources of distributed generation within a defined geography, with the ability to “island” the entire system away from the central grid if necessary. “But the marketplace appears to have broadened its thinking and now puts simpler projects into the microgrid bucket,” writes Chief Editor Elisa Wood. “This is largely because customers want these less complex systems—such as solar-plus-storage—to have at least some microgrid capabilities.”
The wider definition might open up new opportunities for Siemens and a more important role for the technology, Wood writes. “Controls allow connection and disconnection from the grid. They can ‘optimize’ or constantly configure the most efficient and least expensive combination of their resources—including electricity from the grid—at any given moment. The controller does this with speed and automation not possible when a human is making the decisions.”
While Siemens hasn’t set out to redefine microgrids, Wood notes, its ideas are influential—and controllers are one of its major differentiators.
“Utilities are comfortable with what it is we are offering; they are comfortable with the software ahead of time,” said Clark Wiedetz, microgrid director for Siemens Energy Management. “Some of our competition offers one controller and then engineers a solution. We have a number of controllers that we can use, depending on the functionality and capability the customer is looking for.”