Every building, office or home is a microgrid.
The question is, how good a microgrid do you want it to be?
Here is a simple 5-star rating for microgrids, an approach for anyone to understand;
You get one star for adding each of the following technologies:
3. Electric Vehicle charging
4. Energy Storage
5. Microgrid Islanding functionality
A normal 0-star microgrid is a conventional building or home, with no automation or else.
It happens you upgraded your home and installed a smart thermostat for electric heating/cooling? You are already a 1-star microgrid, controlling it’s electric consumption.
Do you get a star with a smart meter? Not necessarily if there is no control. If it is just for the distributor’s automated reading, so he can send you a beautiful load curve is not enough. You need to be controlling your grid. For example with a demand response system disconnecting some loads automatically when the distributor pays you for it or prices are high. Simple automation but already a 1-star microgrid nevertheless.
You also built a couple of panels for self-consumption to save some money and become a prosumer? That is a 2-star.
What happened when you bought that Electric Vehicle, because you liked the silence, the lack of smoke and you realized you saved money as well? Well with your charger at home, your microgrid became a 3-star.
Rates continued to grow so you installed more panels and a battery pack? Then you could get more of your own energy from the sun, with your 4-star microgrid.
Did you decide to finally get rid of the grid connection and become independent? No, instead you get paid from the grid, to provide energy, voltage support, and also for disconnecting when required to do so. That islanding functionality made you reach the 5-star level, congratulations!
This story is the typical journey towards a 5-star microgrid (for a home).
Another example of a 5 start microgrid? An off-grid DC building with solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and a V2H charger in the garage with a home automation system.
Yet another example? An office building with CHP, automated HVAC control, islanding functionality, and EV charging stations in the parking lot.
Is the investment good and what should you install first?
Home automation is widely recognized as a very good investment, one of the best in the Smart Grid. Of course there are still more efficient investments you could do first, like changing to LED lighting or solving heating leaks in the windows with simple isolation measures. Energy efficiency is, once reliability reaches a certain degree, the best investment. So that is normally the first step.
The profitability of self-consumption is getting better every day, as is the comparison between EVs and conventional internal combustion vehicles. Which one is first will depend on where your microgrid is, and your mobility needs.
Storage is next becoming profitable after self-consumption and EVs. So that is naturally the next step.
Is the 5th star necessary or profitable? You will have it if you have no alternative to be off-grid, but otherwise it is a question of network reliability or market conditions. If your grid connection is reliable, you probably won’t get paid for islanding and neither would you need it because of grid unavailability. However, it will be interesting if you want resiliency to extreme weather events. Are floods, hurricanes or else getting more frequent in your surroundings…? Then start thinking about running for the fifth star.