Intelligent microgrids

Customized support for aging infrastructure

The U.S. electrical grid has been in place for decades and, by and large, has been a dependable electricity distribution network. But with aging equipment, lack of maintenance and infrastructure investment, the proliferation of newer energy-hungry devices and increasing costs, it's showing signs of wear and an inability to keep up with demand.

With grid dependability waning, more municipalities, advanced research centers, secure government campuses, large-scale utilities and urban and rural residential communities are turning to microgrids: stand-alone electrical systems that consist of multiple generation sources and defined loads that can operate independently from the primary utility grid.

Optimize power

Microgrids use electricity with greater efficiency. At the heart of a microgrid lay a series of interconnected IoT devices that rely on embedded software and sensors to collect and exchange data. These devices are installed at key areas, like inverters, battery storage units and power generators, to measure and record multiple power usage and other data points in fractions of a second. Eaton technologies link these connected devices via a suite of platform-agnostic tools.

Acting as the intelligence – the very thinking that makes data actionable – Eaton's product and platform-agnostic power controllers, sub-station connectivity devices and monitoring tools help organizations achieve their highest power efficiency potential by optimizing where, when and how electricity is consumed.


How a microgrid works

A microgrid is a group of power generation assets that can either work with a utility provider or work independently to feed critical loads. Connected to a utility and traditional fossil fuel generators, as well as renewable sources such as wind and solar, microgrids work to collect, store and optimize energy to provide reliable, efficient electricity solutions in the event of power loss.

Here's a typical microgrid scenario that demonstrates how Eaton reduces dependency on a utility by using data to determine the source of power:

Different microgrids for different goals

A microgrid is as unique as the business, community or government institution that deploys one. The solution is never "one-size-fits-all"; by understanding an organization's needs and wants, microgrid developers can identify the applications and assets needed to custom engineer an appropriate solution.

Organizations typically fall within the spectrum of three goals: reliability, affordability and sustainability. Of course, every customer would like to build a microgrid that "does it all." However, while benefits sometimes overlap, building a solution that entirely satisfies all three objectives could be cost prohibitive.


The need for consistent, always-on power is a huge concern for many companies and residential communities. After Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and most recently Hurricanes Irma and Maria, many states, such as New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, awarded grants and passed disaster-response legislation to reduce or eliminate power loss. Frequency regulation is also a factor. As more coal and oil plants decommission and their inverters come offline, many U.S. states experience frequency and voltage control fluctuations.

Additionally, remote and island communities and developing African nations are exploring microgrids for resilient energy to lessen dependency on fossil fuels, especially oil and diesel.


Many governments, large corporations and institutions look to microgrids for financial benefits. As natural gas prices continue to drop, companies want to capture the gas-generator heat they already produce via combined heat and power: the on-site capture of heat that would otherwise be wasted to produce steam or hot water used for space heating, cooling and other industrial processes.

In some cases, larger organizations generate the same output as a utility and even create power surpluses they can sell to their utility provider. This return-on-investment approach is especially attractive to larger organizations with multiple generators.


Reduced dependency on fossil fuels is a concern of many, thus the desire to store energy from renewables such as wind and solar. However, these resources are intermittent; the sun isn't always shining or the wind blowing. West coast states in the U.S. are exploring battery storage solutions in order get the most from renewables while helping to better the environment.

Helping you build dependable power

Microgrid clients have one thing in common: the need for reliable power. But reliability means different things to different customers. Eaton helps customers understand the ins and outs of power alternatives via its 5MW microgrid at the Eaton Experience Center, a premier demonstration and testing facility. Here, clients explore ways to access renewable energy, profit from excess supply, and even operate off 100 percent internal power… with no grid support whatsoever.

    The intelligent components behind optimization

    In the Eaton Experience Center's controlled environment, a full-scale operational microgrid powers the lighting, HVAC and house loads. The microgrid features Eaton's Power Xpert Energy Optimizer controller and is used as a "live" platform for testing control advancements. The microgrid controller intelligently manages multiple sources, including solar, energy storage, generation and the utility supply, to ensure power continuity for shortand long-term utility interruptions.
    Built on open standards (IEC 61850), Eaton's Microgrid Energy System (MES) employs a modular system design that accounts for microgrid needs now and in the future. Repeatable generation module templates, pre-format load options, a suite of pre-engineered optimization strategies, standard displays and reports and scale templates help Eaton build a microgrid from the ground up.

    Our MES benefits

    • Repeatable modules require less engineering, implementation and testing
    • Improved overall cost effectiveness
    • Shorter project cycles for a faster turnkey project
    • High system quality & functional assurance from comprehensive system simulation and testing
    • Improved project confidence with less risk
    • Easily reconfigured to reflect changing generation & load assets
    • Troubleshooting made simple
    • Efficient system support documentation & training
    • Single point of responsibility
    • Turnkey and full lifecycle support

    Balance optimization and deployment costs with MES

    When cost is a factor, Eaton supports a staged build out. For instance, if an organization wants to add a generator one year, a battery in year two and a wind turbine in the third year, components can be added without a major rewrite of code logic. That's because MES is 75% pre-engineered, with the remaining code and application configuration custom built to customer-specific environments and key performance indicators. This includes customized solutions and full simulation testing. And because all controllers are gateway components, cyber security is inherent thanks to features already built in.

    Additional resources

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