With the launch of dozens of successful pilot programs globally, the adoption rate of microgrids is expected to accelerate over the next several years. Microgrids offer greater resilience, a high potential for integrating distributed renewable generation resources, and the ability to isolate themselves, when necessary, from the wider power grid—a capability known as islanding.
According to a recent report from Navigant Research, North America is currently the leading microgrid market and will remain the leader through 2020. Total microgrid capacity in North America will reach 5.9 GW in 2020, representing 64 percent of worldwide capacity, the study concludes.
“The U.S. has pockets of poor power quality scattered across the country, as well as a structure of behind-the-meter markets for distributed energy resources that favors microgrids,” said Peter Asmus, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. “The latter has stimulated creative aggregation possibilities at the retail level of power service. Instead of being driven by grid operators or municipal utilities, which is the case in Europe, the microgrid market in the United States is customer-driven.”
The first U.S. state moving forward with a policy program to promote microgrids is Connecticut, which is responding to a pair of extreme weather events, according to the report: Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and a rare blizzard that hit the East Coast in October 2011. Both events led to massive power outages. This effort — which has authorized construction of up to 27 microgrid sites as of early 2013 — is supported by an initial grant and loan program of $15 million.