Canada’s electric power utilities are facing their most serious crisis since their inception a century ago. Aging infrastructure, rising demand for electricity and concerns for the industry’s environmental footprint have made it crucially important to improve how the grid manages electricity.
Smart Grid technologies will enable energy conservation, increased operational efficiencies and a more resilient mix of energy sources. Canada’s Smart Grid will be a network of integrated Smart Microgrids: geographically compact units capable of running autonomously from the main grid. Each microgrid will be capable of load side management, peak-shaving, power conservation and integration of local renewable energy generation.
Smart Microgrids are an evolution from traditional microgrids in the following three ways:
- Variable generation. Traditional microgrid generation is dispatchable, typically diesel generation. Modern Smart Microgrids incorporate variable generation such as wind and photovoltaic solar, so that electricity must be either be used or stored when available.
- Islandability. Traditional microgrids have been built in off-grid areas, and so are permanently islanded. Smart Microgrids may be built in remote, campus and urban areas, and so must be able to connect and disconnect from the larger ‘macro’ grid without negative impact.
- Demand response. In traditional microgrids, generation follows the load. Modern Smart Microgrids use forecasting, modern sensing and communication technology to manage demand and more closely match available generation.
The NSERC Smart Microgrid Network (NSMG-Net) was a multi-disciplinary research program, in partnership with government and industry, that developed, tested and verified many of the technologies and regulations required for Canada’s future Smart Grid. NSMG-Net was funded for five year and ran from 2011-2016.