Powering Strong Communities

Idaho National Laboratory Deploys “Microgrid in a Box” at Hydropower Plant

Idaho National Laboratory, in partnership with Fall River Electric Cooperative, has deployed a “Microgrid in a Box” at the cooperative’s hydropower plant in rural Idaho.

Using the Microgrid in a Box technologies developed by the Idaho Lab and sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office, the researchers demonstrated how hydropower with advanced controls and use of a mobile microgrid, can enable small communities to maintain critical services during emergencies.

The Relocatable Resiliency Alternative Power Improvement Distribution Microgrid in a Box, also known as RAPID MIB, is a portable, self-contained grid system developed by Idaho National Laboratory engineers in collaboration with private industry and government customers.

The Microgrid in a Box system is designed to enable the integration and optimization of multiple energy sources -- such as hydropower, solar panels, wind turbines, diesel generators or even small nuclear reactors -- to ensure a reliable and resilient power supply in remote or off-grid locations, or during emergency situations or power outages.

At the ribbon cutting for the Microgrid in a Box project, Idaho Lab researchers simulated a critical load while showing how the hydropower plant could be used to restore the grid after a simulated electrical grid blackout.

“There are hundreds of hydropower plants like this one serving small communities across the country,” Thomas Mosier, leader of Idaho National Laboratory’s Energy Systems Group, said in a statement. “What we’ve demonstrated are new technologies that can enable these communities to use the hydropower resources they already have to restart and maintain stable power to essential services, even during an emergency event.”

“Restarting a grid isn’t as simple as flipping a switch,” Kurt Myers, leader of Idaho Lab’s Energy and Grid Systems Integration group, said in a statement. “It requires a steady power input that many small utilities alone can’t provide. Combining the tech built into the Microgrid in a Box with the existing capabilities of the Fall River plant, we’re showing how communities with limited resources can recover and continue to function during an emergency.”

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