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What is the Digital Microgrid? 


Just as personal computers, cellphones, and the
internet replaced centralized “big iron” with networks of
simple reproducible hardware and software, electric
power is being revolutionized by networks of distributed
electric power generation. The old economies of scale
of large centralized power plants have vanished with
inexpensive solar+storage.

A microgrid is defined by the U.S. Department of Energy

as “A group of interconnected loads and distributed
energy resources (DER) with clearly defined electrical
boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with
respect to the grid [and can] connect and disconnect
from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-
connected or island mode.” More simply, a microgrid is
a self-contained local power distribution system serving
a small geographic area such as a hospital, small town, developed nations. The grid, by its very nature, is somewhat
hotel or university campus. monolithic because it is centralized and synchronized.
Disruptions can become widespread leading to the thousands
The term “nanogrid” is also used to define a small microgrid, of “grid outages” that happen every year as the result of
typically serving a single building. More recently, market weather events or other disruptions.
analysts have defined the nanogrid as “100 kW for grid-tied
systems and 5 kW for remote systems not interconnected with
a utility grid.” THE DIGITAL MICROGRID
The Digital Microgrid Initiative designs and builds components
AC OR DC? for creating nanogrids and microgrids. These use DC power
for local power distribution and can connect to larger networks
Most of the world’s home appliances and office equipment use of microgrids or to the AC electric grid. One significant
alternating current (AC) at 100 to 240 volts. Since the “Electric advantage of interconnecting DC microgrids with DC “bridges”
Wars” of Westinghouse and Edison in the late 19th century, AC is that the larger electric power network can become immune
has been the prevailing power distribution throughout the from local disruptions and outages.
world. In spite of numerous advantages, 100 years ago, DC
lost out because there was no easy way to convert DC to the Also, the larger network of microgrids can become an
higher voltages needed to transmit power long distances. AC exchange of independent buying and selling of power.
won with the invention of the transformer in 1839. It was not Transactions to share power generation can be settled by
until the 1980’s that electronic components became available modern electronic solutions such as blockchain ledgers.
that could challenge AC for high voltage power distribution.

A guiding principle for resilience and efficiency in large
The electric grid is a network of synchronized AC power networks such as the internet has been decentralization of
providers and consumers connected by transmission and decision making. DMI has developed an architecture which
distribution lines, the high tension (115kV or more) power lines provides autonomous decision making at the very lowest levels
traveling from power plants to the utility poles throughout in a nanogrid to larger megawatt level microgrids.

DMI 8kW 380Vdc Battery Charger/Bus Controller © 2017 The Digital Microgrid Initiative Corporation web: http://www.digitalmicrogrid.com
Page " 1 of 2
" Revision 1.0 July, 24, 2017 All Rights Reserved. Subject To Change Without Notice ph: (800) 660-1320 email: info@digitalmicrogrid.com
DMI provides two levels of autonomous decision-making. The happens with many off-grid inverters and lead-acid batteries
nanogrid level is defined as components with a common DC when a large load is turned on causing a voltage drop, causing
power interconnect of less than one megawatt. This would a current increase as the inverter demands more power,
generally be a single building. Within the nanogrid, causing a further battery voltage drop, until the inverter shuts
autonomous operation is controlled by defined “voltage down (or a breaker resets).
bands”. Goal-oriented reflex agent software makes decisions
at a very local level for a single component such as a battery Power charging sources such as a generator, grid rectifier, or
bank, or solar array. solar DC-DC boost converters provide a voltage between V₃
and V₄. Power providers which power loads but should not be
Generators, power “bridges” to other DC microgrids, and AC used for battery charging provide a voltage between V₀ and V₁
grid connections require a higher level of decision making. to prevent cross charging among batteries. Power at any
These components negotiate with their counterparts using voltage between V₀ and V₄ will power loads on the bus such as
internet-like routing protocols. “Utility agent” software barters inverters or a microgrid bridge. Battery output is limited to V₁
for the supply or distribution of power with pricing determined so that the battery output will never be at a high enough
by the cost of fuel, weather conditions, and many other local voltage to charge another battery. V₁ to V₂ serves as a guard
factors. band. Other bidirectional source/sinks may provide voltage at
any voltage between V₀ and V₄ if their control is determined by
In all cases, DMI MicrogridLink hardware provides the local policy rather than voltage bands.
intelligent agent decision making with embedded “personality
modules” and links to other MicrogridLinks and to the internet MICROGRID OPERATION
using Bluetooth BLE, MODbus, CANbus and other
communication protocols. Microgrid power exchange is always controlled by a DC-DC
converter controlled by a MicrogridLink (μGridLink) controller.
NANOGRID OPERATION The power exchange is negotiated with independent supply
and demand decisions. For example, if a microgrid has limited
In the following operational description there are references to energy storage, it might wish to supplement it’s power at night.
V₁ through V₄. The default settings for the values are It broadcasts a request for power after examining
predefined to avoid a hysteresis loop on the bus. This could advertisements from various power sources. Supposing, for
happen, for example, when a large load on an inverter drops example, that a microgrid two “hops” away has access to
the bus voltage causing batteries to switch from charge to cheap grid power, the μGridLink to this second drop might
discharge and also turn on the rectifier to provide advertise that it has access to cheap power and may even
supplementary power. This all causes an increase in the mark up the price to account for transport.
voltage on the bus which reverses the condition and the
rectifier shuts off and the battery switches from discharge to All such energy transactions are recorded in a blockchain
charge, then this all happens again. A similar phenomenon ledger (Ethereum) and settled accordingly.

DMI 8kW 380Vdc Battery Charger/Bus Controller © 2017 The Digital Microgrid Initiative Corporation web: http://www.digitalmicrogrid.com
Page " 2 of 2
" Revision 1.0 July, 24, 2017 All Rights Reserved. Subject To Change Without Notice ph: (800) 660-1320 email: info@digitalmicrogrid.com