SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle, which already is making a big push into providing its software to support utility-wide smart grid projects, is also helping them manage smaller pieces of the smart grid puzzle.

Those are microgrids – neighborhood, campus or business-park sized pockets of renewable power, energy storage, demand response and grid-balancing systems that have been proposed as a way to integrate all the complicated pieces of a smart grid in manageable sizes.

Oracle has taken its enterprise software expertise to that scale, working with a southern California utility on such a microgrid project, Linda Jackman, vice president of product management for Oracle's utilities division, said Wednesday at Greentech Media's The Networked Grid conference in San Francisco.

While Jackman didn't identify the utility or project in question, her description of the project – in a southern California community with a fairly slender connection to the larger grid of the utility in question – could be describing Borrego Springs, Calif.

That's where San Diego Gas & Electric has been working on a microgrid project funded with about $3 million from the California Energy Commission and a $7 million grant from the Department of Energy. That DOE funding is from previous years, rather than part of the $3.4 billion in DOE smart grid stimulus grants announced last week.

SDG&E is seeking $100 million from a smaller, $615 million pool of DOE grants aimed at smaller, more experimental smart grid projects to do a second microgrid project at the University of California at San Diego.

Named partners on that proposal include SAIC, Qualcomm, Intel, IBM, Cisco, General Electric, and Balance Energy, a newly launched arm of defense contractor BAE Systems (see Balance Energy Wants to Build Microgrids, Starting With San Diego).

Oracle is not on that list. But it, like the partners that want to work with SDG&E, may see microgrids as a promising market. That's the view of Pike Research, which believes microgrids will grow to a $2.1 billion market by 2015 with $7.8 billion invested in such systems over that time (see Microgrids: $2.1B Market by 2015).

By the way, the term "microgrid" could refer to a utility-controlled entity (which can also go by the term "virtual power plant"), or one owned by an independent entity, like a college campus or corporation, that sells the power and grid stability it could generate back to the utility.