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It's been said in industry circles that more changes have taken place in the past five years than in the last 100. Those changes and buzzwords have included distributed energy resources (DER), wind and solar energy, microgrids, energy storage, and electric vehicles, among many others.

Some would argue these are emerging technologies, while others would call them disruptive technologies. One thing we can all agree on, however, is that it is a compelling and exciting time to be in the electric power industry.

“The industry used to be seen as mundane and somewhat unexciting, but this is no longer the case with all of these exciting technologies such as wind, solar, electric vehicles, and energy storage,” says Wayne Bishop with OMICRON electronics Corp.

One of the technologies that is causing the most buzz, however, is the self-sufficient “island” known as a microgrid. According to the US Department of Energy, a microgrid connects to the grid at a point of common coupling that maintains voltage at the same level as the main grid unless there is some sort of problem on the grid or other reason to disconnect. A switch can separate the microgrid from the main grid automatically or manually, and it then functions as an island.

There are certainly a number of talking points around microgrids. For example, Christopher N. Evanich, Microgrid Applications Director at S&C Electric Company, suggests that, “Because microgrids can function as an island, they can help ensure reliable supply if a cyber attack occurs on the grid.”

Notes Bishop, however, “What if the microgrid itself becomes the victim of a cyber attack?”

This is a discussion that Evanich is looking forward to leading during his presentation at the 2017 Canada Protection Symposium in December where he plans to present a profile of the microgrid installed at Ameren, one of the most complex utility microgrids built to date. Now operating in Champaign, Illinois, the microgrid is first to be installed by an investor-owned utility that allows a microgrid to island customers on an active feeder, and it is one of the few microgrids in the world that operates at utility-scale voltages and has multiple levels of control.

“The Ameren microgrid is described as one of the most technologically advanced utility-scale microgrids in North America,” notes Bishop, adding, “ It's a unique project as well, due to the fact that its control system relies on distributed architecture which multiplies the microgrid’s ability to maintain a defense against a cyber attack.”

The Ameren microgrid's control system is the result of work with the military and is the only one to receive an Authority to Operate (ATO) designation from the Department of Defense.

It's technologies and projects like these that keeps industry insiders like Bishop eager to see what's next. That's why Bishop says he's is looking forward to joining Evanich and others from the field this winter at the big show: “By attending the Canada Protection Symposium, attendees will be able to share perspectives with fellow utilities and learn how they have implemented some of these new technologies; as well as over 20 industry experts who will be presenting case studies, lessons learned and best practices.”

The Canada Protection Symposium runs December 5-6 at the Westin Hotel in Toronto. For the complete agenda, visit www.omicronenergy.com/2017CPS.

Wayne Bishop is the North American marketing manager for Omicron electronics Corp. For more, visit www.omicronenergy.com/2017CPS.