Clean Energy Business Models Undergoing Transformation

As the clean energy industry emerges from a challenging period caused by the global economic downturn, it is entering a stage of rapid change in which business models are being transformed against a backdrop of regulatory uncertainty. 

The market seems to be reviving business structures and technologies that were once abandoned.  

Utilities are becoming more involved again with power generation deployments, most notably in solar. The growing popularity of direct current (DC) at both the micro-distribution and high-voltage transmission levels of service is an unexpected development for many in the industry. And there’s an increasing diversity of scale and resources being deployed in the renewable sector, a sign of the growing maturity of this market segment.

Pike Research identified 10 trends that are contributing to this transformation, including:

  • Revival of direct current (DC) transmission and distribution technologies
  • China’s rise as the most important global market for waste-to-energy power plants
  • New rules for economies of scale, from huge wind turbines as large as 10 megawatts (MW) to small modular nuclear reactors that could power a shopping center or a business complex
  • Greater diversification of technology choices in solar, including a resurgence of concentrated solar power (CSP) and concentrated solar PV (CPV)
  • More product diversity in the wind power sector, both in terms of design and scale, including more vertical axis and two-bladed turbine designs and the increasing importance of mid-sized turbines (100 kW to 1 MW)
  • The movement of power plants to marine sites, including the growth of offshore wind, hydrokinetic wave and tidal generators, and even floating solar photovoltaics (PV) on water-based sites
  • Growth in geothermal generation, largely due to state renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in the western US
  • Investor-owned utilities returning to ownership/development of new renewable generation projects

“As the clean energy industry matures and as it simultaneously comes to grips with economic challenges, market leaders are experimenting with new business models, both at a large scale and on a distributed basis,” says senior analyst Peter Asmus.  “At the same time, key industry players are utilizing an increasingly wider diversity of technology options, especially in the solar and wind sectors.”

“Clean Energy: Ten Trends to Watch in 2011 and Beyond”:

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