The grid edge is all around us.
Historically, distributed generation has largely been limited to a handful of progressive states. But as new maps from GTM Research show, solar, storage and microgrid applications are expanding beyond those traditional borders and leaving their imprint on the grid. Here are a few findings from some recent reports.
1. Solar will start to saturate more feeders
With distributed solar expected to grow threefold in the U.S. by 2017, more utilities will start to see meaningful amounts of PV on feeders. Only four states in the continental U.S. have seen solar reach 2 percent of feeder carrying capacity. However, within the next four years, eleven states will pass the 2 percent mark. And some states, like Arizona, California and New Jersey, will see solar hit the 10 percent or greater mark on some feeders.
This will boost the secondary power electronics market considerably. According to GTM Research, the market for distribution control equipment will grow 134 percent by 2017, hitting $320 million. That could bring an additional 75,000 power devices onto the grid to help manage variable solar generation.
Source: GTM Research
2. Commercial storage is becoming more viable
Partly driven by this boom in solar, the distributed commercial storage market will also see considerable growth. There are currently 120 planned storage projects scattered throughout the U.S., which include batteries, flywheels and thermal applications. By 2017, GTM Research expects the commercial storage market to hit 720 megawatts of capacity.
Most of the activity is centered in New York, the Mid-Atlantic region and California, where there are more comprehensive market rules for storage. Most of the applications will revolve around grid balancing, reducing demand charges and peak shaving. But solar paired with storage will also play a role, particularly in California and the PJM region.
3. Microgrids are expanding and becoming cleaner
Microgrids are seeing a mini-boom in the U.S. as well. As a new report from GTM Research shows, roughly 700 megawatts of microgrid capacity will be added to the grid by 2017.
The activity is highly dispersed. Some of the new projects are a direct result of resiliency planning in Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states after Superstorm Sandy. In those regions, most projects are driven by universities and municipalities. In other most areas of the country, the military is leading the charge. There are still very few microgrids planned or in service at commercial sites.
It would be a stretch to say that microgrids are truly taking off, but they are growing solidly due to concerns about power reliability, resiliency and interest in distributed generation. Between 2014 and 2017, the U.S. market for microgrids will grow from $133 million to $671 million, eventually hitting $3 billion in 2018.
The vast majority of existing projects are based on natural gas and diesel. However, many new deployments will feature more battery storage and solar PV.
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