A microgrid is a local energy system that incorporates power generation, energy storage and demand all within a confined and independently controlled network. Microgrids may or may not be connected to the grid and often have the ability to operate in both grid-connected and off-grid (island) mode. Traditionally microgrids have relied on diesel and natural gas generators, however, there is increasing use of renewable sources like wind and solar PV coupled with energy storage. Smart controls allow microgrids to manage load variability and increase energy efficiency. Overall, microgrids are beneficial in applications where tribes experience frequent power interruptions due to poor infrastructure, remote locations, and natural disasters.
Types of Microgrids
Off-grid microgrids include islands, remote sites, and other isolated grid systems not connected to a local utility network.
Campus microgrids are fully interconnected with a local utility grid, but can also maintain some level of service in isolation from the grid, such as during a utility outage. Typical examples serve casino / hotel resort properties, universities and military bases.
Community microgrids are integrated into utility networks and serve one or more customers or services within a community, generally to provide resilient power for vital community assets; typical examples include elder housing, community centers, and food storage and distribution. These systems can often also provide thermal energy for heating (and cooling) to multiple facilities.
What You Need
For microgrids to be viable for Tribes, the following characteristics and circumstances must generally be present:
- Power quality and reliability issues such as frequent and/or extended power outage events.
- Above average energy costs.
- Availability of cost effective microgrid technologies including smart control systems, renewable or distributed generation assets, and back-up power supplies (typically natural gas or diesel generators).
- Favorable regulatory framework for interconnection to the grid.
- Tribal organizational structures and policies for resilient operation and management.
Services for Microgrids
The Division of Energy and Mineral Development provides project assistance to Tribes and individuals to develop microgrids on their trust land. Learn more about how we can help below.