Microgrids, which are pockets of distributed energy resources that can be isolated from the utility power grid, represent an attractive option for single-owner campus environments, according to a new report from Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research. Campus microgrids, especially for educational institutions, are currently the leading segment of the microgrid market in terms of actual online operating capacity. Interest in microgrids is now spreading beyond the educational institution market to other campus segments, as well, including commercial, government, health care, industrial, and research campus markets.

For a variety of reasons, the United States represents the best overall market for microgrids in most application segments, according to the Pike Research report "Microgrids for Campus Environments." Key factors include pockets of poor power quality scattered throughout the United States and the structure of markets for distributed energy resources. The latter has stimulated creative aggregation possibilities behind the meter at the retail level of power service. Instead of being driven by grid operators, the microgrid market in the United States is customer-driven. Microgrids can offer a quality and diversity of services that incumbent utilities have not been able to provide. These U.S. market dynamics will be instrumental in the identification of business and technology models that may be applied to campus microgrids around the world in the years to come.

The report examines current market dynamics, as well as the longer-term market potential, for campus microgrids in the commercial, education, government, health care, industrial, and research campus application segments. The study analyzes the demand-side dynamics that are driving increased interest in campus microgrids, the key enabling technologies for these systems, and the industry players who are shaping this emerging market. Market forecasts for installed capacity and revenue are provided through 2017, segmented by world region and campus type.

Key questions addressed in the report include:

  • Why are single-owner campus microgrids leading the world in terms of installed capacity?
  • What are the key technology innovations that are making microgrids a commercially viable enterprise?
  • Why are California and New York the two leading markets for campus environment microgrids?
  • Why are policies such as renewable portfolio standards, net metering, utility revenue decoupling, and feed-in tariffs driving adoption of microgrids?
  • How do microgrid control systems differ, and how do these systems apply to different scale microgrids?
  • What are the pros and cons of microgrids versus virtual power plants (VPPs)?
  • Why should smart grid investors pay attention to companies such as Encorp, Viridity Energy, General Microgrids, and ZBB Energy?