22 October 2012, 09:23 BST
Like today's power grid, microgrids include generation facilities, distribution lines, and voltage regulators. However, microgrids offer some unique advantages: their smaller scale translates into fewer line losses, since electricity is generated closer to utility loads, and they lessen demand on the utility transmission infrastructure. Perhaps most importantly, microgrids are an important accelerator for various kinds of distributed power generation, particularly from renewable sources. According to a new report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant's Energy Practice, the total worldwide capacity of distributed generation (DG) contained in microgrids will more than quintuple over the next 6 years, growing from 764 megawatts (MW) in 2012 to nearly 4,000 MW in 2018.
"Distributed generation assets are the foundation of any microgrid," says senior research analyst Peter Asmus. "Although the majority of DG today is in the form of fossil fuel-based systems, primarily diesel generators, recent growth rates confirm that the fastest-growing distributed power generation technologies are combined heat and power and solar photovoltaic systems, thanks to steep drops in prices for natural gas and solar PV panels."
Smart, bi-directional islanding inverters are also an extremely important technology to enable DG in microgrids. Without critical advances in this technology, the microgrid market would not be viable. Over the course of the next 6 years, according to the report, the islanding function of inverters for renewable distributed energy generation, combined heat and power, fuel cells, and energy storage will become much more prevalent. While representing less than 5 percent of the total inverter market today, an islanding function could conceivably become a standard feature option for inverters over the next decade or so.
The report, "Microgrid Enabling Technologies", provides a detailed analysis of the technologies necessary to create a microgrid. It also quantifies sales of the most vital technologies that will enable the microgrid market to grow, whether those systems are grid-tied or remote, and whether they utilize alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). The report also includes SWOT analyses of the major enabling technologies for microgrids, along with profiles of the key players in the emerging microgrid sector. Market forecasts for the major enabling technologies, segmented by world region, are provided through 2018. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Pike Research website.
Source: Pike Research