Microgrids becoming mainstream

Driven by growth in distributed generation and a greater desire of consumers and businesses for greater energy independence, the microgrid concept has moved steadily toward the mainstream. Microgrid deployments are happening worldwide, with some new subsegments heating up — with grid-tied utility distribution microgrids (UDM) and direct current (DC) microgrids attracting increased attention, according to Navigant research.

“The pace of microgrid deployments has accelerated rapidly around the world, in a variety of application segments,” said Peter Asmus, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. “In the United States, in particular, the increasing frequency of severe weather is prompting utilities to reconsider their historic opposition to customer-owned microgrids that can disconnect from the larger grid and continue to function, allowing critical mission functions to stay up and running.”

North America leads the global microgrid market today and is forecast to do so through 2020, but Asia Pacific could emerge as the global leader for microgrid deployments by 2030 or 2035 due to the large need for power for growing populations not served by traditional grid infrastructure, Navigant predicts.

Europe’s preferred aggregation and optimization platform is the virtual power plant, which provides superior reliability so that islanding capabilities lack great appeal.

Navigant Research forecasts that global annual microgrid capacity will increase from 685 MW in 2013 to more than 4 GW by 2020. The key to future growth now rests with greater creativity in both the public policy and business model arenas.

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North American utilities leading microgrid capacity