Whenever I come across an article like this on microgrids, i.e., “islands” of distributed energy generation, storage, and consumption that are not connected to a power utility, I look at the numbers. If I were a utility exec, how scared would I be about the incursion of microgrids into my turf?
This article projects that by 2022, microgrids worldwide will total 15 GW. Note that our current generation capacity is 15 terawatts, 1000 times that much. I suppose, putting this in perspective, that if you told me that I would lose 1/1000th of my market to an interloper over the next ten years, I could live with that without too much heartburn – especially considering that the total market itself will grow considerably over that period of time.
The article accurately defines microgrids as:
distributed, small-scale versions of the centralized conventional grid systems. This small local nature has its own benefits, such as reliability, flexibility, and enhanced security. Key technology has been introduced to allow widespread adoption of microgrids. Apart from acting as a generation and distribution source like the conventional grid system, microgrids provide a useful platform to integrate renewable resources on the community level and allow for customer participation in the electricity enterprise.
Here are two of my own predictions:
• Yes, microgrids may remain small, though grid-connected distributed generation – especially things like mid-sized wind – will become quite large.
• Though microgrids may remain relatively unimportant in certain parts of the planet, they’ll have a huge influence in the developing world, bringing electrification to rural areas for the first time. This will make a significant impact on global sustainability, as electrification is critical to health and education. Remember that educated women tend to have far fewer children than uneducated women, thus this whole enterprise will have meaningful impact on population growth.