Micrgrids are an extremely hot topic when discussing the larger domain of grid modernization.  Most of the activity happening today is occurring at universities and military installations, but cities are set to take a larger role in the coming years - this according to a recent presentation based on an upcoming report from GTM Research.

According to Magdalena Klemun, a grid analyst with GTM Research, microgrids are now transitioning from combined heat and power systems installed for reliability concerns to more sophisticated systems that integrate renewable energy and distribution networks assets coordinated within clear geographical boundaries.

In the smart grid community, microgrids can be broadly defined.  The GTM Research report has developed and included descriptions and graphics to help clarify what a microgrid is, while also acknowledging many of the concepts that can be components of a microgrid do not necessarily constitute a true microgrid.  The demand for more sophisticated microgrids is being driven by cheap natural gas, extreme weather, and falling prices for distributed renewable energy.  However, there are significant challenges for microgrids if they are going to scale, especially in places where reliable grids are already in place.  Standards and interconnection issues are some of the most significant barriers, as well as financing hurdles.

Despite these issues, microgrids are appearing across North America, with regional concentrations in California, Hawaii and the Northeast U.S.