Microgrids are coming.
Maybe not today or tomorrow, and while microgrids are unlikely to overhaul the electricity grid to the same extent that Uber is transforming how we get around our cities, for example, there is little doubt that the global microgrid sector is growing and will continue to do so.
Some of the world’s largest technology firms are investing heavily in this space. For example, ABB is forging ahead as one of the global leaders within the microgrid sector, but others are also jostling for position. Siemens’ announced partnership with AES Corporation will create a new global energy storage technology and services company, with microgrids expected to be a key target application for the Joint Venture. Wärtsilä’s acquisition of grid-scale energy storage developer, Greensmith Energy, is a further example of ‘distributed power’ players diversifying into sectors which overlap strongly with microgrids.
Some argue that the microgrid sector is still to take off, but it seems there are plenty of planes gathering on the runway…
At Delta-ee, we have been witnessing this trend of diversification for a number of years now, and we have recently published a Study - Microgrids: a growing global market – where are the opportunities? – which explores the current state of the microgrid sector, and considers the future market prospects.
During the primary research we carried out for the Study, we compiled a list of eight ‘Microgrid Sector Recommendations’, targeted at players who are entering (or thinking about entering) this space.
Get your ‘cookie cutter’ strategy right!
What do we mean by this?
Microgrids come in many different shapes and sizes, from simple ‘diesel replacement’ business models through to complex, multi-asset microgrids incorporating renewable energy, dispatchable generation, energy storage and other technologies. The drivers for developing a microgrid are diverse, ranging from providing electricity grid resiliency (a critical driver in parts of North America) to providing cost-effective electrification in remote areas of the emerging world.
A small, kilowatt-scale microgrid in Tanzania is poles apart from some of the sophisticated microgrids we are beginning to witness – such as the Oncor Microgrid in Texas, for example.
Such is the wide range of applications that microgrids can target, it also stands to reason that the types and designs of microgrids being developed are equally diverse.
It’s true to say that no two microgrids are entirely the same.
With each microgrid being unique, so too each microgrid design is unique. And naturally, bespoke designs lead to higher upfront capital costs. It is surely the case that most microgrids which don’t get final approval fall at the CAPEX hurdle more than any other.
So what can be done to reduce microgrid costs? In short: standardise the design process.
Companies that can offer off-the-shelf, modular solutions which meet key customer requirements will be able to reduce the cost of microgrid development – thereby grabbing market share and helping market growth.
A number of companies interviewed during the research for the Delta-ee Microgrid Study outlined their ongoing efforts to offer a more modular approach to microgrid design and a defined ‘menu’ of options to choose from. For example, one such company offers customers the choice of different microgrid configurations, including:
- Providing the microgrid control system only;
- A solution to ‘island’ the microgrid from the wider electricity grid only; or
- Both of the above.
So, when we say ‘Get your cookie cutter strategy right’, it’s all about the dough. Standardise your microgrid design and keep the costs down.