Microgrids, which are smart grid networks for integrating distributed energy generation from both renewable and fossil fuel resources, are proliferating around the world in a variety of forms. Microgrids may be grid-tied or remote and are utilized in several key application segments including commercial, community, institutional, military, and remote installations. According to a new tracker report from Pike Research, one of the most significant changes in the nascent microgrid market in 2011 was the beginning of a shift away from pilot projects and toward full-scale commercial microgrids.

“A wide range of electricity users are demonstrating strong demand for power generation and distribution systems that can be operated independently from the utility grid,” says senior analyst Peter Asmus. “A few of the market drivers include concerns about grid reliability, rising costs of fuel, broader availability of distributed generation technologies, and a drop in prices for some nontraditional energy sources such as solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Microgrids are now emerging from the experimental stage and are being commercialized at greater scale and for an increasing variety of deployment applications.”

Asmus adds that with the adoption of the IEEE P1547.4 islanding standards in July 2011, the shift from pilot validation projects will only accelerate. Since 2009, a handful of large commercially viable projects have come to light, especially in California – as platforms for aggregation of distributed renewable resources, and in New York – with combined heat and power (CHP) units as anchor technologies.

Pike Research’s tracker includes details for 269 microgrid projects around the world, up from 166 in the 2Q11 version of the tracker database. The cleantech market intelligence firm’s deeper dives into the three most active microgrid segments – institutional/campus, military, and remote systems – have uncovered new projects and new market players. Particularly notable in the new version of the tracker is the identification of three primary subsegments within the remote microgrid market – village power systems, weak grid island systems, and remote industrial mine systems, each of which is expected to represent a billion-dollar plus market by 2017.