Analysts Frost & Sullivan expect the global market for micro-grids to accelerate rapidly from next year as a thirst for renewable energy driven by solar PV prompts greater demand for power in off-grid locations.
Much of this demand will be driven by the U.S. market, which has already established a clear lead in the engagement of micro-grids for remote and military applications. And while Europe will also be a catalyst for further adoption of micro-grid technology, it is the emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region that harbor the largest potential for micro-grids due to growing energy demand, low grid connectivity and intermittent power outages.
"Increasing focus on renewable energy in the energy mix, and its integration, is lending momentum to the adoption of micro-grids on a global scale," said Suba Arunkumar, energy and environment industry manager for Frost & Sullivan.
"Uptake has been steady in various fields, including military, industrial, institutional and off-grid applications."
The analysis from Frost & Sullivan points to sharp growth occurring from 2015 onwards, with installations for micro-grids increasing each year until 2020.
Remote community site deployments in Asia-Pacific, Africa and South America are expected to experience the most sustained levels of demand over the next five year, while utilities in some of the more energy-developed regions are also likely to explore the possibilities offered by micro-grids.
The chief barrier to such growth is the expensive task of integration, say the analysts, adding that the "proliferation of custom interfaces adds to the cost of the system." However, Frost & Sullivan says that a number of research institutions and universities in Europe and North America are working on ways to overcome these connection barriers potentially creating a large value chain of active micro-grid participants that will further fuel the sector beyond 2015.
"By the same token," adds Arunkumar, "since a micro-grid involves many different participants, the scope for expansion for players across the whole value chain is immense. First-mover advantage will be prominent for participants venturing into the market within the short term."
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