Powering 10G: The Role of Microgrids (2020)

By David Geary, P.E., Comcast; Robert F. Cruickshank III, Ph.D., CableLabs; Derek DiGiacomo, SCTE; Ken Gilbert, P.E., John W. Teague & Mark Welsko, P.E., WES.net; Mike Glaser, Cox Communications; Brian T. Patterson, EMerge Alliance

This paper is a joint effort by members of the SCTE Alternative Energy/Microgrid Working Group. The SCTE Alternative Energy/Microgrid Standards Working Group’s (AE/MGWG) charter is to “educate and inform the SCTE community on the applicability and use of alternative energy & microgrid technology in cable operator facilities.” This includes: defining operational practices and standards; demonstrating the technology is deployable and manageable for service providers; facilitate communication between service providers, industry partners and other standards organizations; and creating a library of microgrid use cases showing how resiliency can be improved, operational costs reduced, and deployment times decreased through the appropriate application of these technologies.

A microgrid is an electrical system that connects multiple sources and loads that is controllable by the user to allow independent operational choices. Currently, some basic alternative energy and microgrid technology have been deployed throughout the cable industry. However, the industry has not yet taken full advantage of existing, available, and relevant advanced powering technologies. Most existing power systems are not ready to work like advanced microgrids. That said, cable operators can, and should, continue to leverage already deployed technologies and test the new approaches to powering. This paper will attempt to address how microgrid technology has continued to evolve, along with the issues facing the application of future microgrid technologies, to illustrate the benefits of adopting a proactive rather than reactive microgrid implementation strategy.

Today, traditional deployments of energy infrastructure in the cable industry includes Direct Current (DC) power plants and Alternating Current (AC) uninterruptable power systems, long term battery storage, transfer switches and switch gear. It also includes generator sets, renewables and other power sources that have been combined in a traditional manner to provide resiliency and sustainability when grid power is lost.

While these are many of the basic elements of a microgrid, they often lack the topology and controls required for full microgrid implementation and performance. However, existing deployments are capable of providing a foundation for transition into a more resilient and functional microgrid architecture.

The fundamental premise behind the deployment of a true microgrid architecture by a cable operator is the increasing opportunity to diversify sources of power and therefore enable a more resilient service offering to customers. This would also allow new capital models and power system topology designs to reduce cost of ownership.

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