Expanding Interest in Microgrids, US Is Best Market

Interest in microgrids, which allow campuses to have much more control over energy, is growing rapdily.

Distributed energy on campus microgrids will increase 164% over the next six years, and the US is the best overall market, according to Pike Research.

Microgrids are pockets of distributed energy resources that can be isolated from the utility power grid. They represent an attractive option for single-owner campus environments. 

Intalled capacity is expected to grow from 620 megawatts (MW) to 1.6 gigawatts (GW) by 2017, when annual revenue is projected to reach $777 million.

Campus microgrids, and especially educational institutions, are currently the leading segment of the microgrid market in terms of actual online operating capacity.

Interest in microgrids is spreading beyond educational institutions to other campus segments as well, including commercial, government, healthcare, industrial, and research campus markets.

The US is the best overall market for a variety of reasons including its pockets of poor power quality and the structure of markets for distributed energy resources.

"Microgrids offer a compelling opportunity for facilities managers in single-owner campuses to take more direct control of their electricity supply," says senior analyst Peter Asmus. "Energy and facilities managers for educational institutions, corporate campuses, medical campuses, and other campuses are increasingly turning to distributed energy generation, both from renewable and fossil fuel sources, using a broad array of microgrid configurations."

Asmus adds that market structures in the US have stimulated creative aggregation possibilities behind the meter at the retail level of power service. As a result the market for microgrids is customer-driven, instead of being driven by grid operators.

Earlier this year, smart grid technology company Viridity Energy announced a partnership with Thomas Jefferson University and Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals to develop and implement a large-scale energy storage project that could be the first step in developing a micrgrid on the campus in the center of Philadelphia.

In 2009, General Electric received $2 million in Federal stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) for a smart microgrid demonstration project at Twentynine Palms Base in California – the largest Marine Corps Base.

And more recently, researchers at Penn State will take advantage of the microgrid at the Philadelphia Navy Yard to test advanced energy efficient building technologies under one of the Department of Energy’s new Energy Innovation Hubs.

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