Academic Minute Podcast
Mahmoud Kabalan, University of St. Thomas – Microgrids
On University of St. Thomas Week: What is a microgrid?
Mahmoud Kabalan, assistant professor of electrical engineering, has more.
Dr. Mahmoud Kabalan is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Center for Microgrid Research (CMR) at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in St. Paul, MN. He received the National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2023. Dr. Kabalan is the Principal Investigator (PI) on a $5.4 million/5 year grant from the MN Department of Commerce to expand the CMR’s research, education, and outreach activities. Dr. Kabalan led and supervised the commissioning of the UST microgrid, a $3 million real-world industry-grade microgrid. He has more than 30 peer-reviewed publications covering microgrids and power systems. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Minnesota.
While both microgrids and backup generators can provide power during outages, they are fundamentally different. Backup generators are typically single-source solutions that provide power to critical loads in the event of a grid outage. Microgrids, on the other hand, are localized electric systems that can operate in parallel with the grid or separate from the grid in an emergency and operate independently until the grid is restored. They are made up of multiple power sources, energy storage technologies, and advanced control systems.
Microgrids are increasingly being recognized as a key solution for ensuring resilient power at critical facilities such as hospitals, military bases, and community centers. My research shows that by incorporating a mix of renewable energy and legacy power sources, energy storage, and sophisticated control systems, they can provide reliable power during outages, eliminate the need for backup generators, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, microgrids can also provide benefits to the larger grid by improving its stability and resiliency. By integrating with the grid and providing grid supporting services such as frequency regulation and voltage support, microgrids can help prevent blackouts, reduce the need for costly grid upgrades, and improve overall grid reliability.
Overall, the importance of microgrids at key infrastructure cannot be overstated. They offer a more reliable, sustainable, and cost-effective solution for ensuring resilient power at critical facilities, while also providing benefits to the larger grid. As the need for resilient and sustainable energy systems continues to grow, microgrids are likely to play an increasingly important role in meeting these needs.
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