Autonomous Microgrids: Theory, Control, Flexibility and Scalability

U.S. Dept of Defense Office of Naval Research

Project Description and Research Objectives:
From large scale electric power grids and microgrids down to small scale electronics, power networks are typically deployed using a fixed infrastructure architecture that cannot expand or contract without significant human intervention. Mobile, monolithic power systems exist but are also not readily scalable to exploit surrounding power sources and storage devices. However, if a power network is constructed from physically independent and autonomous building blocks, then it would be infinitely reconfigurable and adaptable to changing needs and environments. The aim of this project is to integrate vehicle robotics with intelligent power electronics to create self-organizing, ad-hoc, hybrid AC/DC microgrids. The main benefits of this system would be the establishment and operation of an electrical power networks independent of human interaction and can adapt to changing environments, resource and mission. In the context of U.S. Naval platforms, this autonomous electrical network could be used in land, air or sea systems.

The focus of this work will be on land based autonomous microgrid systems, but the fundamental theory developed may be applicable to air and sea based systems as well. Investigators at Michigan Technological University have developed initial hardware and testbeds to study this problem. However, a more detailed theoretical foundation is needed to be developed to apply autonomous microgrids to a wide variety of operational scenarios with various resources. It is also hypothesized that given the flexibility of this approach that it could be equally applied over a vast scale of energy assets. A microgrid that grows in situ from 10 s to 100 s to 1000 s of energy assets can be equally managed, controlled and optimized through the highly scalable approach proposed in this project.

These applications are examples of the critical need for autonomous mobile microgrid capable of operating in highly dynamic and potentially hazardous environments. Our overall goal is to create a scalable architecture to develop a system that accounts for uncertainty in predictions and disturbances, is redundant, requires minimal communication between agents, provides real-time guarantees on the performance of path planning, and reaches the targets while making electrical connections. Such architecture provide a coherent layout for the interconnection between different disciplines on this topic and minimizes the integration concerns for future developments.

Description of the Proposed Work:
• Microgrid Planning and Control
• Microgrid Topology and Optimization
• Electrical Components and Power Flow
• Game-Theoretic Control
• Physical Autonomous Positioning and Connections

Investigator: Wayne Weaver, Rush Robinett and Nina Mahmoudian

Wayne Weaver

image25785-persWayne W. Weaver received a BS in Electrical Engineering and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from GMI Engineering & Management Institute in 1997, and an MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Weaver was a research and design engineer at Caterpillar Inc., in Peoria, Illinois, from 1997 to 2003. From 2006 to 2008, he also worked as a researcher at the US Army Corp of Engineers, Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC), Construction Engineering Research Lab (CERL), in Champaign, Illinois, on distributed and renewable-energy technology research. Weaver is a registered professional engineer in Illinois. His research interests include power electronics, electric machine drives, electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, and non-linear and optimal control.

Areas of Interest

  • Power electronics systems
  • Microgrids
  • Non-linear and game theoretic controls
  • Distributed energy resources
  • Electric drives and machinery

Interconnected and Agile Microgrids Research


Interconnected MicrogridA microgrid may consist of many interconnected energy assets to improve reliability efficiency. Two or more microgrids can also interconnect to share resources to further improve reliability and efficiency. The scalable microgrid project is aimed at creating a hardware test-bench capable of developing and testing technologies for control and optimization in large numbers of interconnected microgrids. It is also aimed at studying how these technologies can scale up to high and higher numbers of interconnected microgrids. Development of power conversion nodes that adapt and connect to an expanding interconnected microgrid structure to create a large, decentralized power distribution network that can adapt to changing resources and demands.

Active Research Projects


  • Communication protocols
  • High penetration renewable
  • Agile grid controls
  • Control of interconnected microgrids
  • Scale model explorations

Interconnected Flowchart

Agile DC Microgrid Testbed Architecture

Agile DC Microgrid Testbed Architecture

MTU - Scalable Interconnected Microgrid Testbed

MTU – Scalable Interconnected Microgrid Testbed
The light-weight agile DC microgrid testbed will be expanded to dozens of interconnected microgrids.

Interconnected Applications