Microgrid capacity to triple by 2020

The total worldwide capacity of remote microgrids will grow from 286 MW in 2013 to nearly 980 MW in 2020, according to a recent report from Navigant Research.

Remote microgrids target niche markets, such as mines and other commodity extraction facilities not connected to an existing grid, physical islands, rural villages in the developing world, and mobile and tactical applications for military agencies. While these remote power systems number in the thousands, many are still powered by diesel generation.

Today, an increasing number of remote microgrids showcase smart and much cleaner combustion technologies capable of reducing diesel consumption by as much as one-third, even without any renewable generation.

Under a more aggressive scenario, total capacity will reach 1,071 MW in 2020, the study concludes.

“Operating in isolation from the wider power grid, remote microgrids are multiplying thanks to a combination of factors, including high costs for existing energy services in many parts of the world and declining costs for solar photovoltaics and other renewable distributed energy generation technologies,” says Peter Asmus, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. “These systems tend to be the most lucrative of current microgrid opportunities, in terms of per-megawatt vendor revenues, and while the majority of remote microgrids are being deployed in the developing world, activity is also increasing in Europe and North America.”

In many cases, the most advanced creative controls technology approaches for microgrids are being pioneered with off-grid distribution networks. ABB, for instance, has combined a flywheel to provide frequency stabilization and a robust inverter with its own supervisory controls, enabling it to offer optimization to grid-tied microgrids that feature high penetrations of renewables. Other remote microgrid innovators, such as Younicos, claim the ability to achieve 100 percent renewable penetration within remote microgrids.

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