Although the days of summer have ended, the reliability of our nation’s grid remains a serious problem. The U.S. grid typically provides three 9s or 99.9% reliability, which equals almost 9 hr of downtime per year. For industries that demand high uptime (typically six 9s or higher), this amount of downtime is simply unacceptable.

While conducting research for its "North American Market For Grid Power Solutions: Distributed Generation & Ride-Through Technologies" study, Venture Development Corp. (VDC), a Natick, Mass.-based technology market research firm, interviewed a sample of end-users demanding high reliability. One datacom end-user mentioned losing "$100,000 in lost sales per minute" while another telecom respondent cited losing "$1,000,000/hr just in lost revenues."

After asking end-users which products they owned or were interested in using to solve grid reliability problems, the firm compiled the following statistics:

End-User Interest In Distributed Generation

  • Diesel Recip Gen-sets - 81%

  • Non-Diesel Recip Gen-sets - 60%

  • Battery UPS - 51%

  • Small Gas Turbines - 28%

  • Static Transfer Switches - 26%

  • Microturbines - 21%

  • Flywheels - 15%

  • Fuel Cells - 11%

  • Photovoltaics - 6%

  • Wind Turbines - 6%

According to the study, the vast majority of end-users use or plan to use a recip gen-set/battery UPS solution to meet their high reliability needs in the future. Historically, end-users have used this setup to meet their electricity requirements. However, other technologies are emerging as alternative solutions. Recent fuel cell, microturbine, and flywheel developments have made these products much more attractive to end-users. In fact, VDC expects North American revenues for these three products to reach nearly $1.7 billion by 2005.

For more information on the study, e-mail joanp@vdc-corp.com, nathana@vdc-corp.com, or msr@vdc-corp.com.