Navigant Research Releases Latest Microgrid Deployment Tracker

Editor’s Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Navigant Research. For more information on the report, click here

Microgrids are a global phenomenon. Yet, a clear definition of what is and what is not a microgrid is still open to debate. One of the few government agencies to define a microgrid is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which identifies a microgrid as: 

    “A group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources (DER) within clearly defined electrical boundaries that act as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected and island-mode.”

Navigant Research has broadened this widely accepted definition of a microgrid to include remote systems in its analysis. Remote microgrids are networks that are not typically interconnected with any utility grid or may interconnect with a highly unreliable grid; therefore, they operate in island mode for a majority of the time. It was these remote, off-grid systems that were first called microgrids decades ago. 

The research firm recently published its latest Microgrid Deployment Tracker, the seventh edition of its microgrid database that is updated biannually and now covers six microgrid market segments and six principal geographies, dividing the previous Rest of World geographic segment into Latin America, the Middle East & Africa, and Antarctica. It lists operating, planned/under development, and proposed microgrids, as well as selected projects that lay the foundation for viable microgrids over the next 3 to 5 years. 

New Findings and Insights 

Many new microgrids are still under the radar and, consequently, have not yet made it into Navigant’s database. Some vendors claim to have large project portfolios, but due to client sensitivity and a desire to remain opaque in business development efforts, did not reveal project details for publication in this report. Many microgrid developers/integrators have nondisclosure agreements in place. Nevertheless, seeds have already been planted for the next update to this Tracker, given the long lead time required to collect sensitive project data. 

Navigant primarily focused on the remote microgrid segment in this update, a reflection of recent research activity in the segment that has historically been underrepresented. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that this segment features the largest increase: the addition of 155 new projects representing 60 MW of additional capacity.

The vast majority of the new project entries (135) were in the Asia Pacific region, concentrated in India, which is the global leader in terms of numbers of deployed microgrids to date. The largest source of new capacity is the community/utility segment, with an addition of 154 MW. In the remote segment, the largest number of new project entries from a single vendor came from Optimal Power Solutions. The leading vendor in grid-tied microgrid markets was Tecogen with its modular combined heat and power (CHP) technology. 

This seventh edition of the Microgrid Deployment Tracker is current as of March 2014. The result is a much more robust microgrid market than in 2009, when Navigant first began to develop the world’s only database and commercial analysis of this corner of the smart grid movement. New vendors continue to enter this space and previously undiscovered projects keep coming to the fore. As of this update, Navigant has identified a total of 4,393 MW of total microgrid capacity throughout the world, up from 4,148 MW in the previous update in 4Q 2013.

This current edition of the Tracker again reinforces the premise long held by the research firm that North America is the world’s most fertile environment for microgrids due to the declining reliability of its distribution grid. As a region, North America is still the world’s leading market for microgrids with a planned, proposed, and deployed capacity of 2,874 MW, which represents roughly 66% of the global microgrid market. North America also leads the world in terms of microgrids currently under development or in the proposal process with a capacity market share of 67%. Of the total North American microgrid capacity, 1,542 MW is currently online and more than 1,363 MW is in the planned/under development or proposed phase.