• Microgrid
  • Virtual Power Plant
  • Renewable Energy
  • DER Technologies

ABB Collaborates with New Partner Ecosystem for Modular Microgrid Solutions

Peter Asmus
Feb 23, 2021

Guidehouse Insights Utilities

Microgrids come in many sizes and serve a wide range of customer applications. They can feature conventional and renewable energy supplies, energy storage, demand response, and EV charging. This list of potential assets just keeps growing over time. Digital platforms tie these distributed energy resource (DER) assets together into intelligent aggregations. Without a premium monitoring and control platform, the full value of a microgrid cannot be realized. An industry focus is on platforms that can be fine-tuned to meet the end customer’s needs without excessive engineering or customized expense—the latter is perhaps the Achilles’ heel of the industry

According to a recent Guidehouse Insights report on microgrid controls, some $14 billion will likely be spent cumulatively on smart inverters, programmable logic controllers, SCADA, relays, and circuit breakers, distribution automation, and software embedded with AI by 2030. Often representing less than 15% to 20% of the total cost of a microgrid, these platforms are what makes a microgrid deliver the greatest value from any mixture of DER assets.

ABB Greets the Market with Innovative Tech

ABB is one of the few larger global technology players focused on both distributed controls and remote microgrids. The company shifted gears recently to seek opportunity in grid connected microgrid market segments, as highlighted in a white paper released by Guidehouse Insights and ABB. For example, one of ABB's projects was for a major European Bank in Rome. The project offsets the need for additional fossil fuel-backup generators because of functionality embedded in a smart circuit breaker from ABB. This has reduced costs and increased resiliency. The all-in-one circuit breaker can control, protect, and coordinate operations of a microgrid designed to provide 24/7 power services to support mission-critical financial services processing needs.

After Hitachi and ABB’s JV, the ABB Smart Power division is maintaining its microgrid focus and still seeks opportunity, not only in the microgrid space but also with virtual power plants. In early 2021, ABB announced a new strategic collaboration with DEIF, a long-established company offering control technology to land power, marine, and offshore wind power industries based in Denmark. The collaboration, which was featured in a recent Guidehouse Insights webinar, makes a lot of sense.

ABB and DEIF Solutions Reduce Costs

Both companies have committed to a green energy future, seeing new opportunities as the world shifts from fossil to renewable energy resources. ABB supplies core technologies for microgrids ranging from smart circuit breakers to digital platforms that enable energy flow and DER asset monitoring. DEIF is a long-standing controls solutions provider. Combining the two company’s products into modular solution blocks can reduce project costs by an estimated 10%. The new offering fully integrates microgrid controllers and inverters with a complete range of metering, connectivity, and load management optimization algorithms.

“The state-of-the-art scalable, modular plug-and-play controller concept we have developed with ABB is a highly intelligent, highly flexible solution that satisfies a huge range of customer requirements—from simple off-grid to advanced plant management systems,” said Claus T. Larsen, DEIF’s vice president for strategic accounts. Along with modularity and cost advantages, the ABB and DEIF JV uses a new go‑to-market strategy for microgrids. Rather than selling directly to microgrid customer hosts, they instead will offer pre-engineered solution blocks to system integrators and installers. Because most end users may not understand the complexities and nuances of smart integration, this new approach shifts decision‑making to building microgrids that lack the capability to offer their own controls technology stack. More modular approaches to development of microgrids are gaining traction.