The Emerging Microgrid Market

By:  Michelle Froese

If you’re looking to invest in the energy market, you might want to consider the growing microgrid industry. At least that’s what Tesla Motors is doing. The maker of the sleek Model S electric car aspires to become a major player in the business of microgrids, and for good reason.

Recent analysis from Frost & Sullivan points to a significant spike in growth occurring from 2015 onwards with installations for microgrids increasing every year until 2020. Similar findings from Navigant Research predict the market will reach nearly $20 billion in annual microgrid-related revenue by 2020. Under a more aggressive scenario, this figure could reach even closer to $40 billion.

“Microgrids are inching their way into the mainstream, with the focus of the market shifting from technology validation to questions surrounding the most promising business models,” said Peter Asmus, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. As of 2Q 2015, the firm identified a total of 12,031 MW of microgrid capacity throughout the world, up from 4,393 MW in 2Q 2014—a near tripling of the known scope of the microgrid market.

What is a microgrid?
The U.S. Department of Energy defines a microgrid as “a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island-mode.”

Basically, a microgrid is a distributed power system with the ability to self-supply, manage, and operate with or without the main grid as required. Microgrids do so through the use of a master controller that acts as the “brain” of the system, collecting data from connected energy sources while determining how to best control and operate that energy.

Through this brainpower, microgrids have the ability to improve power quality by reducing grid imbalances and providing a reliable supply of energy. They can also help solve intermittency issues commonly associated with renewable sources such as wind and solar power. Microgrids can serve as a back-up power source or bolster the main power grid during periods of heavy demand.


In recognition of the growing microgrid market, the U.S. Department of Energy has begun funding several grants to related projects. One of those grants went to utility provider ComED just last fall. They received a $1.2 million grant to build a first-of-its-kind master controller that could drive the operation of a cluster of microgrids, which connects multiple networks. ComED assembled a group of science and technology partners for the project, including Alstom Grid, S&C Electric, Schneider Electric, the University of Denver, and others. (Note: A total of seven projects received an award for approximately $1.2 million. Learn more here.)

“There is no doubt that microgrids will be core components of the future integrated grids and extensive research and development efforts will be undertaken in upcoming years,” said Amin Khodaei, Ph.D., from the University of Denver, in a related press statement. “The truly remarkable and distinguishing feature of this project is that it is initiated and will be led by a utility company.”

Utilities aren’t commonly known for their openness or acceptance of outside power sources, particularly ones that can work independently off the main grid. However, ComEd’s community-based microgrids have the potential to provide benefits to a city through improved reliability and enhanced resiliency in response to unexpected disasters or severe weather-related events.

A surge of serious weather events have occurred over the last few years, leading to more grid outages that could have been prevented with microgrids in place. In fact, the Village of Potsdam in northern New York, which is no stranger to harsh weather and ice storms that have damaged utility lines in the past, will serve as test grounds for an Enhanced Microgrid Control System (eMCS). This system is currently under development by General Electric (GE) and several partners, including the National Grid, with the aid of a $1.2 million grant from the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE), $381,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and an additional $300,000 from GE.

The purpose of this advanced microgrid system is to provide resilient, high-quality power to critical loads during power disruptions. The system is designed to work even if disconnected from the main power station for as long as two weeks.

“Together, GE’s control system and the underground microgrid envisioned for the Potsdam community, could serve as a model for towns and cities across the country that are susceptible to weather disasters and blackouts,” said Sumit Bose, principal investigator on the project and microgrid technology leader at GE Global Research.


Remote power
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2020, developing countries will need to double their electrical power output.

“All told, the developing nations will represent 80% of total growth in energy production and consumption by the 2035,” this according to Navigant Research. “One could safely assume that the majority of these new power supplies will be produced and distributed via remote microgrids and other related forms of distributed energy resources.”

To meet this demand, companies are taking action and joining forces. Vestas’ Wind for Prosperity initiative, for instance, is a commercially based business model designed to bring affordable and reliable wind-generated electricity systems to rural populations in developing countries. One way they are doing so is by partnering with ABB, a power and automation supplier, to provide off-grid electricity to communities in Africa. Vestas is supplying re-furbished wind turbines and ABB is offering their microgrid power-stabilization solutions to create hybrid-generation systems that are well suited to operate in remote locations with limited infrastructure.

Canadian company Tugliq Energy has retained Hatch, a technical engineering and consulting firm, to engineer a microgrid control system for its wind and diesel energy storage demonstration project at a remote Arctic mine site in northern Québec. The five-year pilot project, which began in 2014, is testing wind-power integration on an islanded microgrid under severe Arctic climate conditions.

This hybrid system integrates renewable power and fossil fuel generation with the intent of maintaining grid stability and minimizing energy losses from wind curtailment (when the wind power supply is greater than the load). The pilot project is also testing three different storage technologies, including lithium-ion batteries, hydrogen, and flywheel storage. Flywheel devices store kinetic energy from the high-speed rotator.


System size
SolarCity, a company that defines itself as America’s largest solar-power provider, is one of the first to incorporate Tesla’s lithium-ion battery technology. The result is that SolarCity is now able to configure and offer their solar system as a stand-alone, off-grid power supply.

According to the company website: “The combination of solar-power generation and battery storage will make the utility grid safer and less susceptible to service interruptions, and will also lower the cost to expand and maintain the grid.”

Initial plans are to present these off-grid systems to eligible customers in Hawaii who are otherwise prevented from using solar power.

The company is also expanding into larger community services. Because a microgrid can aggregate power production and demand from more than one source, it can serve multiple sectors. But when does a microgrid become a macrogrid? For some, even the community-scale system SolarCity offers stretches the limit of the term “micro.”

At its core is the ability of a microgrid to separate and isolate itself from the main grid (known as “islanding”), but for some communities especially in remote locations, the microgrid is the primary grid.

For California’s Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, their new hybrid energy system currently under construction is the only system of its kind combining renewables with advanced energy storage. Working with JLM Energy, the system will include a 30-kW microgrid supported by a 100-kW PV solar system and 20 Zefr wind turbines.

The Tribe currently has a single 10-kW wind turbine that has provided power for a component of their wastewater treatment facility for a number of years. Developing more sustainable onsite power to reduce reliance on the main grid allows the Tribe more self-sufficiency, which is a significant component of their Tribal Sovereignty.

“A large part of sovereignty is independence and self-sufficiency,” explained Barry Brenard, Bear River Tribal Council Member At Large. “Anything that makes us more independent strengthens our sovereignty and bring us closer to our traditional values.”

The DOE released a study earlier this spring that echoed the self-sufficiency of microgrid demonstrations, providing evidence that deployments tested offered higher reliability and power quality than even utility-power systems.

So microgrid or macrogrid, what does size really matter when an opportunity arises to deliver more affordable and reliable electricity?

Source:  Windpower Engineering

Wind/solar system installed on Rohnerville Rancheria

LOLETA >> Two rows of solar panels installed on a hillside next to Singley Road are now supplying power to the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria’s Tish Non Community Center. The solar panels are one part of a renewable energy system developed by Rocklin, CA-based JLM Energy, and the first Tribal renewable microgrid system in California.

The next step in this unique project is to install wind turbines, which will be mounted on the back row of the solar panels. “These are micro-turbines,” said Matthew Mattson, executive director of Tribal Operations for Bear River, “that are designed for urban applications.” He said the turbines are low noise, with blades less than three feet long.

In all, 20 turbines will be installed, with the goal of having the wind-related portion of the alternative energy project completed sometime in October.

The JLM Energy Gridz system will provide a 30-kilowatt microgrid, which is supported by a 100-kilowatt photovoltaic solar system and several wind turbines to provide an integrated approach to sustainable energy. This system is unique in that is combines a microgrid with wind and solar energy in an integrated system.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first renewable, hybrid microgrid installed by a California tribe,” said Edwin Smith, Tribal Council member and director of Environment and Natural Resources. “Bear River is thinking globally and acting locally,” he said.

The energy system will support the Community Center’s operations during a power outage, and will reduce energy use overall by shaving peak demand charges.

The tribe currently has a single ten watt wind turbine that has been generating power for a component of the Tribal wastewater treatment infrastructure for more than five years.

“Our experience with the single wind turbine has been positive,” said Edwin Smith, Tribal Council Member and Director of Environment and Natural Resources. “We know it works,” he added. “The technology has improved for wind and solar, and it is the right thing to do for the environment. It’s a sound economic decision in the long run,” Smith said, “but it is also a long term investment in our planet.”

“The investment in the installation pencils out to a ten year payback when analyzing reduced power costs for the Tish Non Community Center,” said Dakota McGinnis, Vice Chairman and Economic Development Director.

The project is part of a sustained effort by the Bear River Tribe to diversify economically, reduce its carbon footprint and become more self-sufficient as a community. It is the first tribal renewable microgrid system in California.

Source:  Redwood Times

Outside-the-Box Renewable Energy Microturbines

By:  Kennedy Maize

Rooftops with arrays of tiny wind-powered microturbines and hydro microturbines generating power as water flows through municipal drinking water systems or the outflow of municipal sewage treatment systems?  They’re real.

For many in the electric power business, the term “microturbine” conjures up images of small, gas-fired machines, a fad a decade ago that never caught fire but that now is enjoying a bit of a comeback (see “Gas-Fired DG Showdown: Microturbines, Fuel Cells, or Reciprocating Engines?” in this issue). Similarly, say “wind turbine,” and the image that comes to mind is an enormous, slow-spinning, three-bladed device sitting on top of a large tower, most likely in a remote, rural location. “Hydro turbine” brings memories of big dams, enormous penstocks, and massive Pelton generators.

Intel Corp., the computer chip giant, and others, are turning those images on their heads. Intel is installing tiny wind turbines on the edge of the rooftop at its worldwide headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif. (Figure 1). The 58 small wind machines—about six feet tall and weighing 30 pounds each—should deliver about 65 kWh each, designed to power the conference center in the Robert Noyce Building (named for the company’s founder). That’s based on the local average wind speed of around 8 to 9 mph.

Micro Wind Power GeneratorsIntel Zefrs by JLM Energy

JLM Energy of Rocklin, Calif., is installing its “wind array turbine system,” using its Zefr wind turbines (rated at 240 W at 35 mph wind speeds), on the Intel building’s rooftop, where they will share the space with an array of solar photovoltaic panels. Marty Sedler, head of Intel’s infrastructure operations, told the San Jose Mercury News this summer that the wind array is designed as much as a proof-of-concept project as a commercial electric generator. “We are trying to understand how this type of technology integrates into Intel and where are the best locations around the world. We’ll share the data and share the information so other people can apply it to their own businesses and homes.”

Sedler told the newspaper that Intel’s rooftop wind array is “one of the largest we’ve identified anywhere.” He added, “One of the things Intel does that’s a little different from other companies is that all the projects we have done to date have been on our campuses. It’s not the answer. It’s one of the answers. The key is to get off the grid.”

Another concept that got some initial buzz was an elegant-looking wind microturbine array for large rooftops branded “Architectural Wind” by developer AeroVironment. The company’s website still touts this product as combining “the functional with the aesthetic to create the first modular and architecturally enhancing small wind turbine system.” However, the company told POWER that it decided to stop manufacturing the product “several years ago.”

So, the next time you hear “microturbine,” think wind and hydro—as well as natural gas. ■

Kennedy Maize is a long-time energy journalist and frequent contributor to POWER.

Source:  PowerMag

Reshuffling Our Top 5 Micro Wind Turbines

April 30th, 2013 by

One of the most popular micro wind turbine companies around, Southwest Windpower, began to scale back operations last year and has apparently closed its doors, which means that our list of Top 5 Micro Wind Turbines is overdue for a re-do.

As a preliminary step, let’s take a look at JLM Energy, Inc., an all-around renewable energy company that has figured out a way to piggyback its Zefr micro wind turbine arrays onto Southwest’s poles, resulting in a clever way to squeeze some extra juice out of existing wind turbine infrastructure.

JLM’s Zefr Micro Wind Turbine Array Up

JLM Energy offers a variety of building-mounted renewable energy solutions including its AirBlades series of micro wind turbines, which it offers in an array package called Zefr.

From a distance, the arrays resemble a souped-up army of those oversized plastic daisy windmills you see in front yards, which brings up an important point regarding micro wind turbines, especially building-mounted micro wind turbines.

Aside from generating renewable energy, aesthetic appeal is a critical factor for micro wind turbines, as we pointed out in our Top 5 Micro Wind Turbines – Remix! list.

Read More at Clean Technica

Southwest Windpower Towers Can be Reused with JLM Energy’s Zefr Pole-Mount for Continued Wind Generation

Custom Wind Turbine Clamp Available for Southwest Wind Tower Applications

ROCKLIN, California, April 24, 2013 – JLM Energy Inc., a leading energy technology company, announced the unveiling of Zefr Pole-Mount, its unique wind turbine pole-mounting system designed specifically to be used on existing Southwest Windpower towers, including Skystream, Air, and Whisper. Designed to be used with JLM Energy’s Zefr, an urban arrayed wind turbine, Zefr Pole-Mount is the first of its kind that is engineered to operate micro-turbines in a vertical array.

‘Our customers wanted to use their existing Southwest Windpower towers because they have already been placed in good wind production areas,’ said Pierre Marcotte, CEO and owner of Solar Wind Energy. ‘When we approached JLM Energy with this project they designed and created the Zefr Pole-Mount to be used specifically for these applications. Using the Zefr Pole-Mount will allow more customers the ability to utilize their towers to generate power from the wind.’

The development of Zefr Pole-Mount was initiated when a multi-disciplinary team of engineers and technicians were organized at JLM Energy Inc. The goal was to repurpose existing Southwest Wind towers as the base of the vertical array of JLM Energy’s Zefr micro-wind turbine. With Southwest Wind exiting the market there is a need to utilize the towers that have already been installed. JLM Energy has designed the Zefr Pole-Mount clamp so multiple Zefr’s can be easily mounted to the tower.

Zefr, JLM Energy’s urban-arrayed wind turbine, has several advantages including ease of installation, quieter operation, safety (humans and birds) and it is architecturally more pleasing. Depending on the configuration of the structure, the turbines can also be mounted on rooftops, sidewalls and pole structures. Zefr broadens the market opportunities to commercial building owners and their tenants whom are looking to reduce their environmental footprint.

‘The top selling point for Zefr is the flexibility it gives to our customers. A Zefr array can be installed in different combinations to fit most structures. Similar to PV solar panels, Zefr turbines are combined in an array to produce substantial amount of power for a building,’ said Kraig Clark, chairman and co-founder of JLM Energy Inc.

About JLM Energy Inc.

JLM Energy Inc. was founded by Farid Dibachi and Kraig Clark. Mr. Dibachi is a successful entrepreneur who started Arzoon Inc., Diba, Wavetron Microsystems and spent several years with Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ). Clark is the co-founder of CoreLogic (NYSE: CLGX), a data and analytics company serving the mortgage and insurance industries. Since leaving CoreLogic, Clark has continued his entrepreneurial passion and partnered with Dibachi to create JLM Energy Inc.

JLM Energy Inc. Introduces Zefr, the Arrayed Wind Turbine

Architecturally Flexible Wind Turbines Installed in an Array to Generate Big Power

ROCKLIN, California, September 11, 2012 – JLM Energy Inc., a leading energy technology company, announced the unveiling of Zefr, its unique wind array turbine system. Designed as an urban wind turbine, Zefr is the first of its kind that is engineered to operate in an array.

The breakthrough development of Zefr was initiated when a multidisciplinary team of engineers and technicians were organized at JLM Energy Inc. The goal was to increase wind power adoption with smaller, arrayed wind turbines that are compatible with urban and suburban environments. Zefr broadens the market opportunities to commercial building owners and their tenants that are looking to reduce their environmental footprint. Large wind turbines do not have the same flexibility in urban and suburban environments and are often cost prohibitive for small to medium size business owners.

‘We knew the technology development was a substantial undertaking and decided that it was worthy of bringing together an experienced team to develop the fundamental technologies required to make our vision happen,’ said Farid Dibachi, CEO of JLM Energy Inc.

‘Zefr provides us with new opportunities to harness the power of wind for our commercial and residential clients. It has opened up new doors for us. Our customers are pleased to be able to generate energy using their existing real estate,’ said Dennis Swart, owner of Pacific Islands Construction.

Zefr has several advantages including ease of installation, quieter operation, safety (humans and birds) and it is architecturally more pleasing. Depending on the configuration of the structure, the turbines can be mounted on rooftops, sidewalls and pole structures.

‘The top selling point for Zefr is the flexibility it gives to our customers. A Zefr array can be installed in different combinations to fit most structures. Similar to PV solar panels, Zefr turbines are combined in an array to produce substantial amount of power for a building,’ said Kraig Clark, chairman and co-founder of JLM Energy Inc.

About JLM Energy Inc.

JLM Energy Inc. is an energy technology company. We are a team of engineers, entrepreneurs and customer-facing professionals dedicated to research and development of products aimed at reducing the energy expenditure of our commercial, industrial and residential customers.

For more information regarding Zefr, visit