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Why nanogrids may be bigger than microgrids (in some places it is true already)
Published:2014-07-15 Hits:1990

Quick Take:  It was in February 2014 that I first warned you about nanogrids and their potential to disrupt the power industry. Now I'm hearing from several sources that the trend is gaining steam. – Jesse Berst

Nanogrids are "big business" compared to microgrids, says Navigant Research as reported by FierceSmartGrid. What's more, they have the potential to strongly influence the future of microgrids and even the "macrogrid" as well.

Although many of us don't realize it, nanogrids are already common:

·      The power systems in cars and boats

·      The USB-powered devices hanging off a PC

·      Power over Ethernet distribution systems

·      Households in developing nations with local generation and battery storage

In fact, developing nations may leapfrog the U.S. and the rest of the developed world in nanogrid deployment. After all, many countries are skipping the landline telephone and jumping directly to mobile technology. In the same fashion, many regions may skip the capital-intensive traditional grid, thus gaining electricity much earlier than if they waited for the traditional grid to reach them.

"This does not preclude their later joining a macrogrid," says Bruce Nordman, "but possibly a leaner and different sort than we have today." Nordman is a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the author of  “Nanogrids: Evolving our electricity systems from the bottom up.”

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Nanogrids defined

Nordman defines nanogrids this way: "A nanogrid is a single domain for voltage, reliability, and administration. It must have at least one load (sink of power, which could be storage) and at least one gateway to the outside. Electricity storage may or may not be present." Nordman thinks nanogrids will flourish and then be interconnected and aggregated into microgrids, and ultimately, through the meter, to the macrogrid.

Navigant's research concludes that the largest and fastest growing nanogrid markets are remote systems operating in the developing countries of Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. "Though smaller in size than microgrids, nanogrids represent a larger market opportunity because they are, generally speaking, less challenging to the status quo and less subject to the technological challenges facing larger distribution networks that assimilate diverse distributed energy resources," said Peter Asmus, principal research analyst with Navigant Research.

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.

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