UCI ‘Islands’ its Microgrid from Southern California Edison Grid

Successful test demonstrates reliability and resiliency of campus power system

Solar power arrays, like this on the roof of the School of Social Sciences parking structure, are an integral renewable energy system within the UC Irvine microgrid. Photo credit: UC RegentsFeb.23, 2018 - The Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine, in partnership with campus Facilities Management, successfully islanded the campus 20 megawatt-class microgrid from the Southern California Edison (SCE) grid.  During the 1 hour and 15 minute test, the microgrid performed flawlessly in response to varying campus electrical load demands. 

“This was truly a major accomplishment for our microgrid research and for the betterment of microgrid reliability and resiliency” said Professor Scott Samuelsen, director of the UCI Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP). “The unique collaboration between campus operations and APEP was key to achieving and demonstrating this important capability, and the cooperation of, and collaboration with, Southern California Edison was essential.” 

A successful islanding event is a critical component and deliverable for APEP in the research and development of a Generic Microgrid Controller (GMC), which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity microgrid program. In collaboration with SCE and project partners ETAP, MelRok, and UCI Facilities Management, the controller was developed and then tested on an OPAL-RT platform where a detailed model of the UCI microgrid was simulated. 

In January, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) announced a microgrid controller standard based on the GMC specifications.

“As a leader in developing standards in a broad range of technologies, IEEE approval of these specifications will provide easier adaptation by various developers of microgrids of different sizes, and with different resources throughout the country,” said Samuelsen. “The new standard will also provide needed flexibility that will reduce the engineering and up-front costs required to design and develop microgrid controllers, and will support the integration of microgrids into future smart grids.” 

APEP continues to work with its microgrid partners and other stakeholders to determine additional policies and standards needed to enable deeper microgrid participation in the electricity wholesale/distribution markets, and to solidify the role of microgrids in increasing community resiliency and response to emergency situations. 

- Will Decker / UCI

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