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Microgrids in a Nutshell

Why it matters
Microgrids are independent power grids that enable people to better manage and use energy on any given day. These microgrids also offer greater reliability in emergencies because they have the flexibility to connect to power sources that are available, disconnect to power sources that are compromised and to balance the load (the total amount of power that everyone is using) with the available energy.

What is a power grid?
A power grid is the system that delivers electricity from where it is produced to where it is used. It is made up of the power lines, the substations and the neighborhood transformers that are part of our everyday lives.

What is a microgrid?
A microgrid is made up of local power sources, cables, power electronics, advanced controls, sensors and telecommunications devices, which enable balancing energy from multiple sources of power, including electric, wind and solar with loads (energy demands) in a given geographical region. Through the use of various smart grid technologies, a microgrid allows for nuanced levels of control and independence from the larger grid.

These are called microgrids because the region they serve is much smaller than states or sets of states served by conventional grids. With a microgrid, operators and users can share information, as well as manage and store energy. By definition, a microgrid is self-contained, but it can connect or disconnect to larger grids, depending on what is required.

What are examples of working microgrids?
Ships, offshore oil rigs, and many towns and villages in Alaska are microgrids because they operate independently. Some university campuses, military bases, and industrial facilities can also operate as microgrids.

Who is leading microgrid projects at UT Austin?
Bob Hebner, director of the Center for Electromechanics
Alexis Kwasinski, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michael Webber, mechanical engineering associate professor and co-director of the Clean Energy Incubator
Ross Baldick, electrical and computer engineering professor