MicroGrid Connection Unit

Connecting multiple autonomous (renewable) energy installations in a safe way

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We had the idea to create a connection box that allows easily connect your own solar system to a micro grid of other similar systems. The MicroGrid Connection Unit should ensure the safety of your own system, adapt to the specifics of the microgrid in question, and allow for monitoring and statistics.

The connection unit should measure voltages on both sides of the unit (private system, the micro grid) and decide whether to provide power to the grid, or pull energy from the grid. Doing either one, it should keep track of the energy consumed or provided. It should safeguard itself and the private system by checking for over-voltage in the grid, under-voltage in the private system (to protect batteries from depletion), excessive currents and other potential dangers. The information it gathers should not only be used internally, but also provided to the user, e.g. via a WiFi or BLE interface, or longer range technologies such as LoRaWAN. It could also provide additional adaption to the grid, like DC-DC-conversion if the grid is operated at a different voltage than the private system.

Note: This is for now mostly mirrored content from the Design For A Cause 2021 contest over at Element14.

  • Current Measurement and finding 5 V on the Nano33 IoT

    tiefpunkt05/11/2021 at 20:04 0 comments

    The current prototype of the MicroGrid Connection Unit uses a regular 5V Arduino Nano, and an ACS712 current sensor to measure the current flow to or from the grid. Unfortunately, the Nano33 IoT is running at 3.3V instead of 5V, but the ACS712 doesn't work at that voltage level. At least it's not really intended to. So there are a few options to deal with this:

    • Finding a different current sensor
    • Run the ACS712 at 5V, and "step down" the output using a voltage divider
    • Doing something completely different 
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  • First Prototype

    tiefpunkt05/11/2021 at 20:03 0 comments

    Having done a rough design of the MicroGrid Connection Unit, the next step was to build it on a breadboard and start writing some code. I decided to use a regular Arduino Nano for the first phase, in order to not risk breaking the Nano33 IoT. They are mostly pin compatible so that should be only a small adjustment later on.

    Prototype on breadboard

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  • Design

    tiefpunkt05/11/2021 at 20:01 0 comments

    In the first post, I shared an overview of the different options of the Connection Unit I'm looking to build over time. For now, I want to start with the simplest version, which is supposed to connect a solar system to a grid of (roughly) similar voltage, say a 12V solar setup to a 12V micro grid (which will be the configuration I'm planning to test this in). Here's the important part of that first drawing again:

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  • Introduction

    tiefpunkt05/11/2021 at 19:58 0 comments

    Hello there! Here's the introduction to my project for this year's Design For a Cause challenge, the MicroGrid Connection Unit. I want to create a device that allows to connect existing DC power systems to a small grid, e.g. to allow multiple caravans with solar systems to each other. Let's go into how I got to this idea.

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