Renewable Energy Resilience

Nanogrids, Microgrids and Virtual Power Plants

Expert on new energy business models such as nanogrids, microgrids and virtual power plants, covering cutting edge energy and environmental issues for over 25 years.

Microgrids: From Apples to Oranges

The chief challenge with putting together the recently published Leaderboard report on microgrids -- our first ranking of companies active in the microgrid market -- was trying to develop an apples-to-apples comparison. I tried to narrow the field to just developers and integrators with their own controls platforms, but there were still lots of grey areas.

What if we were to turn the general assumption for our leaderboard format on its head? In other words, why not an apples to oranges listing? In this blog, I will go out on a limb and highlight three companies not included in our leaderboard report, but which I think deserves special mention due to their near-term impacts on the overall global microgrid market, regardless of what their role is in this market. In my last blog, I already highlighted two companies, a utility (Commonwealth Edison) and an energy storage and smart grid innovator (S&C Electric) not included in the Leaderboard, both being disqualified for inclusion since the ranking excluded utilities and vendors primarily focused on energy storage integration.

Here are three other companies not included in the Leaderboard I’d like to highlight, for reasons explained below:

·         Energizing Company: Talk about a company flying under the radar, this company based in Los Angeles is poised to announce one of the largest grid-connected microgrids globally, utilizing a very unique business model in the form of a public/private partnership, and which epitomizes what a “utility distribution microgrid” is all about. It helps that the community this microgrid will serve as allegedly one of the smartest communities in the world (and we’re not talking IQ, but embedded infrastructure intelligence.)

·         Powerstream: Ontario’s second largest municipal utility, Powerstream was the first utility in North America to announce a microgrid offering under a business model it refers to as “DBOOME” – design, build, operate, maintain and energize.” Perhaps the company’s most forward looking project straddles what Navigant Research would call both nanogrids and virtual power plants. Workiing with Sunverge – another company Navigant views as a winner – the company will aggregate solar PV and lithium ion battery systems installed at residents in order to provide bi-directional value for customer and utility alike.

·         Win Inertia. Among energy storage vendors active in the marketplace, Win Inertia is among the most creative. Based in Spain, the company’s project portfolio highlights fascinating applications for hybrid battery solutions, including both AC and DC systems for EV charging, railways and, of course, microgrids. The company is planning to enter the U.S. market soon. The company has enjoyed 100% revenue growth since its inception, and boasts a portfolio of over 15 microgrid-related projects either operating or under development.

Please note that the companies that we did attempt to rank in an “apple-to-apples comparison” in the Leaderboard are very closely clustered, for the most part, in the Contenders category. This is the status of the market today, with no clear leader. The simple fact of the matter is that the list of companies entering this space as a developer and/or systems integrator with its own control offering keeps growing. At last count, we’ve profiled more than 50 companies active in this market, with none of them capturing more than 10% of the total market revenue pie. This is also a global market; the 15 companies ranked in the Leaderboard come from locations as diverse as the different parts of the United States and Europe (including France, Germany, and Switzerland), as well as Australia and Japan.

©2016 Peter Asmus. Photo credit: David Clites. Website by: IMManagers.com