5 Microgrid Problems Explained

Microgrid problems include; cyber-physical vulnerability, distributed energy amalgamation, stability and reliability limitations, demand-supply alignment, and scale limitations.

This article discusses microgrid problems, as follows;


1). Cyber-Physical Vulnerability (as one of the Microgrid Problems)

Cyber-physical vulnerability of microgrids refers to the fact that they are susceptible to faults and possible damage as a result of cyber attacks, or unfavorable physical conditions.

With regards to physical vulnerability, the exposure of microgrid installations to weather elements, implies that they will be affected by any notable changes in the physical environment.

Such changes can be induced by natural hazards. Earthquakes, floods, and landslides are among some natural hazards that can cause the impairment of microgrid systems [2].

Aside the microgrid unit itself, such impacts could be felt by other facilities or systems that are connected to the microgrid. For example, solar panels serving as energy source for a microgrid can be damaged by heat waves and rainstorms, among others.

Cyber vulnerability represents the fact that microgrids can be the target of cyber attacks on their databases or control units. Important configurations and electricity consumption data can be altered in such attacks, leading to functional impairment of the entire system.

Microgrid Problems: Cyber-Physical Vulnerability (Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority 2013 .CC BY 2.0.)
Microgrid Problems: Cyber-Physical Vulnerability (Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority 2013 .CC BY 2.0.)


2). Distributed Energy Amalgamation

The use of distributed energy resources by microgrid systems is an effective means of increasing overall resilience and energy efficiency of these systems.

Distributed energy resources may include any of various means of electricity generation which may simultaneously act as energy sources for the microgrid. Examples of such include wind turbines, biofuel-fired power plants, portable electric generators, fossil fuel-fired power plants, solar panel arrays, and nuclear power plants.

When multiple of such sources are integrated with one microgrid, there are usually significant challenges with amalgamating or unifying the operations of all of them [1].

Scheduling is also often a problem, since it is not sustainable for all sources to supply energy at the same time.

To achieve sustainability where distributed energy sources are concerned, effective control systems and measures must be implemented. These systems and measures are not easy to set up, due to their sophistication.


3). Stability and Reliability Limitations (as one of the Microgrid Problems)

Reliability and operational stability are major challenges facing the operators and users of microgrids [3].

These challenges share close ties with other microgrid problems, like distributed energy source amalgamation, demand-supply alignment, and cyber-physical vulnerability.

Because of the multi-causative nature of the problem, it can hardly be resolved through simple or definite measures. In some cases, reliability and stability issues are only addressed by integrating the microgrid (especially if it is an off-grid system) with other microgrids or with a main utility grid.


4). Demand-Supply Alignment

One of the challenges of microgrid operation is the difficulty of aligning or matching supply with existing or instantaneous demand.

The mismatch between supply and demand may occur in terms of quantity (amount of electricity supplied vs amount required) or time (time of supply vs time of need).

It is more common to encounter such issues when the primary energy source is renewable, although fossil fuel energy sources may also be associated with the problem. Off-grid microgrid systems are also notable for experiencing these issues, although all types of microgrids are susceptible.

Non-alignment of supply and demand is a major concern as it could lead to instability and inefficiency. It could be resolved through a combination of proper planning and selection of suitable energy sources and transmission equipment.


5). Scale Limitations (as one of the Microgrid Problems)

Limitations of scale affect the performance of microgrids by assigning a relatively-low maximum output, to these systems.

Microgrids are typically small-scale, meaning that a single microgrid can effectively serve only a small areal range.

In vast remote areas, multiple microgrids may need to be installed. This creates complexity, and may be costly even compared to the installation of a large utility grid.

Microgrids also often have problems with upscaling, and may not easily undergo any capacity increase.

Microgrid Problems: Scale Limitations (Credit: Idaho National Laboratory 2016 .CC BY 2.0.)
Microgrid Problems: Scale Limitations (Credit: Idaho National Laboratory 2016 .CC BY 2.0.)



Microgrid problems are;

1. Cyber-Physical Vulnerability

2. Distributed Energy Amalgamation

3. Stability and Reliability Limitations

4. Demand-Supply Alignment

5. Scale Limitations



1). Bilakanti, N.; Lambert, F.; Divan, D. (2018). “Integration of Distributed Energy Resources and Microgrids – Utility Challenges.” 2018 IEEE Electronic Power Grid (eGrid). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1109/eGRID.2018.8598678. (Accessed 21 October 2022).

2). Chen, Z.; Xi, Z. (2018). “Reliability-Based Optimal Design of a Micro-Grid System Under Natural Disasters.” ASME 2018 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1115/IMECE2018-88139. (Accessed 21 October 2022).

3). Saeed, M. H.; Fangzong, W.; Kalwar, B. A.; Iqbal, S. (2021). “A Review on Microgrids’ Challenges & Perspectives.” IEEE Access PP(99):1-1. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3135083. (Accessed 21 October 2022).

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