Securing the Future of Microgrids
Ever since Hurricane Sandy, interest in the development of microgrids for resiliency has increased. The whole point of resiliency is to maintain power when there are serious disruptions in traditional central station power supply, such as severe weather or security breaches. But what about the security of the microgrid itself? In a smart move, S&C Electric, a provider of electric T&D equipment and engineering services, has acquired IPERC, a company specializing in microgrid monitoring and control systems with military grade security.
In recent years, S&C has used its expertise in equipment and automation to venture into the microgrid market. The same equipment used in distribution is deployed in microgrids – to quickly detect and clear faults, for example. When called upon, microgrids must be able to maintain voltage and frequency references between multiple generation sources, off-load demand when on-site generation is limited and safely island from/reconnect with the larger grid.
Of note is S&Cs work in designing a 1.5 MW microgrid supporting Oncor’s Systems Operation Support Facility that is connected to Oncor’s Technology and Education Development Center. The microgrid has nine different generation sources (legacy diesel, solar arrays, propane microturbine, gas-power) along with energy storage and load management (HVAC, EV charging) and a control system, with equipment provided by various suppliers. S&C engineers tackled the design and supplied fault clearing equipment, including fiber-optic communication between microprocessors embedded in relays. S&C is supplying energy storage, but not the microgrid controller.
Futurist media technology in Oncor’s TDEC immersion room helps to make a compelling case for microgrids and energy storage.
What is interesting about the acquisition of IPERC is that it moves S&C further into control and distributed intelligence – computing at the edge of the grid. That was really clear from IPERC’s demonstration on the exhibit floor at Distributech 2016, prior to the acquisition. IPERC’s technology was embedded in equipment from S&C, and other suppliers to monitor and control for potential security breaches. Rather than communicating back to a central command station, communication is done via a mesh network of servers at each controllable device. This network can operate even if some equipment in the mesh fails. Encryption of communications is close to military grade.
All the typical good reasons for acquisition are there – ability to cross sell more deeply into different markets, cross-fertilization of technologies, and a history of working together. Add to that, the time seems right with the peaked interest in microgrids.