What is a Smart City?

A Smart City goes beyond the traditional physical infrastructure build, instead featuring a technology first design strategy. Serving as the foundation of the entire city, technology can be deployed to gather data and information, integrate Internet of Things (IoT) devices, plus utilize automation and machine learning to optimize functionality.


Smart Cities Use an Array of Connected Technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) Devices to:


  • Collect, analyze, and deliver data
  • Use insights and machine learning to manage services, assets, utilities, and resources more efficiently
  • Communicate between networks, sensors, and applications, to utilize artificial intelligence and to automate functions
  • Create a more connected, sustainable, and responsive environment


Key Components of a Smart City include:


  • Cutting-edge power and sustainable energy resources
  • Future-proof technology infrastructure with seamless integration
  • Physical foundation, components, systems, and equipment
  • Transportation framework
  • Safety and Security planning
  • Scalability


Why are Microgrids Essential for Smart Cities?

In order for a smart city to function properly, it is essential to have a strong and robust infrastructure. And it requires a reliable power source to keep the electrical systems and communication systems running. Without power, none of the systems work, and all the integrated technology is rendered useless.


What is a Microgrid?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “a microgrid is a group of interconnected loads and Distributed Energy Resources (DER) within clearly defined electrical boundaries that act as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid”.


What are the Three Main Types of Microgrids?

A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in either grid-connected or island mode. Microgrid types are determined by connection modes. The three main types of microgrids include:


  • Remote Microgrids: These microgrids are physically isolated from the utility grid and only operate in island mode, as they are incapable of connecting with a utility grid.
  • Grid-Connected Microgrids: These microgrids have a physical connection to a utility grid, which they can connect to or disconnect from as needed.
  • Networked Microgrids: Also referred to as “nested microgrids,” This is a microgrid that is part of a larger network of microgrids or DERs connected to the same utility grid. These typically supply a wide geographic region and are typically managed by a supervisory control system capable of operating/controlling the entire network of connected microgrids.


Common Components of a Smart City Microgrid

It is essentially a local energy system which incorporates key components all contained within a bounded and controlled network. Microgrid components may vary, but these are some examples of the most common elements:


  • Power Generation: This is how power for the microgrid is generated. Generated power can be collected from multiple sources that fall under two main categories:
    • Controllable Generation Resources such as natural gas and fuel cells.
    • Limited or Non-Controllable Generation Resources such as photovoltaic solar or wind turbines.
  • Backup Generators and Uninterrupted Power Supply: Power sources microgrids can be connected to which can supplement other power generation sources as planned or needed.
  • Energy Storage: A place where collected energy can be stored for future use. Storage capacity, efficiency, and storage systems (electrical vs thermal) will vary based on end-user requirements.
  • Microgrid Manager: A management system that interacts with all components of the microgrid balancing generation, storage, load, and use.
  • Controllable Load: A group of controllable consumers or components that act as a single controllable entity (in respect to the grid) that can be adjusted, usually reduced for a limited period of time due to a momentary mismatch in supply and demand. (Mostly used by remote microgrids.)
  • Utility Grid: Some types of microgrids have a physical connection to a utility grid, allowing them to connect/disconnect from the main utility grid as needed. (Only grid-connected microgrids and networked microgrids have this physical connection to a utility grid. Remote microgrids do not.)
  • Point of Common Coupling (PCC): This is the point where the electrical conductors of the microgrid distribution system and connected to the end-user’s conductors and the transfer of power takes place.



Why Build a Smart City with a Microgrid?

A well-designed smart city utilizes technology to make communities more connected, efficient, effective, safer, and provide a better quality of life for residents. Microgrids power this technology plus provide many other great benefits too.


Microgrids Make Smart Cities More Independent and Resilient

A microgrid system gives a property or property owner at least partial independence from the Utility. Microgrids are self-sufficient, thus, can operate independently from the Utility. So, in the event of a grid outage, a microgrid can provide a backup source delivering power to the smart city, capable of keeping critical infrastructure operational. And if the outage is a result of an attack (physical or cyber) it can help isolate the smart city, making it much less vulnerable.


It can also improve network stability, by helping to better balance supply with demand. Microgrids can supplement supply during times of higher demand to offset peak loads and reduce grid congestion. And since smart grids often use a mix of energy sources, they can easily adapt as necessary.


Microgrids Make Smart Cities More Sustainable

Microgrids provide Smart Cities with an opportunity to achieve more sustainable energy delivery systems. They often utilize a variety of renewable energy generation and storage assets, such as Natural Gas, Fuel Cells, Photovoltaic, and Thermal/Electrical Energy Storage. This allows Smart Cities to:


  • Maximize the amount of renewable energy consumed.
  • Minimize reliance on fuel consumption to reduce dependency.
  • Minimize greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reduce conversion and transmission losses.


Engineering PLUS Smart City Microgrid Design Experts

The Engineering PLUS team can bring horizontal and vertical infrastructure plans together with state-of-the-art technology and managed power distribution systems, utilizing microgrids to deliver a world class smart city design plan. Contact the experts at Engineering PLUS to learn more.



A microgrid can make a smart city more secure, independent, sustainable, resilient, and more environmentally friendly.