Low transmission losses make decentralized generation more feasible

Mountain View, Calif., Dec. 19, 2011 — Decentralized power generation, with its reduced electric grid transmission and distribution losses, higher grid reliability, and lower greenhouse gas emissions, is poised to partially replace large central power plants.

Distributed generation could eliminate, or at least reduce, the instances of black outs that are associated with current electric grids relying only on big central power plants.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan’s Decentralized Power Generation: Technology Penetration and Roadmapping research finds that DG units are able to reduce transmission losses by generating energy near its end use.

Small power generating units distributed throughout the city electric grid will be able to partly cover energy demands and ease the load on the main transmission lines between the central power plant and distributing stations.

Decentralized power generators are very important elements of the future smart grid networks as they enable the grid to operate in an “islandic mode,” wherein they deliver electricity, and sometimes heat, to the nearby consumers when the main power plant fails. DG technologies not only benefit the utilities directly, but also end-users.

Decentralized power generating units (microturbines, solid oxide fuel cells) are often more efficient than central power plants and offer savings on primary fossil fuels usage. The adoption of renewable energy-based DG systems, such as small wind, photovoltaic, solar thermal, and proton exchange membrane fuel cells, will further mitigate utilities dependence on fossil fuels and, thereby, the emission of GHG.

Currently, solar thermal heating is the most used DG technology, while electricity storage technologies are expected to be the most popular in seven to nine years. However, before the mass introduction of DG technologies, developers have to resolve the issue of their integration with the main electric grid with the help of electric energy storage systems.

Most DG units rely on intermittent energy sources, such as wind or solar, which could create voltage and frequency fluctuations in the main electric grid. To remedy this issue, utilities have to deploy smart grids and advanced electricity storage and managing systems.

Industry participants must also strategize to cover for the emergence of some technologies such as fuel cells and PV, as their nascence makes them expensive. Once their performance and production scale increases, they will be priced lower and will not need government subsidies.

Developers can stave off most of these challenges by refining their technologies. They have to make the most of government research financing programs and enlist the cooperation of companies with research institutions. These efforts and DG’s inherent benefits are expected to result in the market for decentralized power generating technologies tripling by 2015, with further expansions anticipated in the long term.

Technical Insights is an international technology analysis business that produces a variety of technical news alerts, newsletters and research services.


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