Business Brains

More campuses invest in off-the-grid power options

Posting in Education

A new report from Pike Research predicts big growth for microgrid power generation investments across the commercial and academic sectors.

It is really hard for me not to analyze every bit of news this week in the context of the utility mess in New Jersey, where I live. When it takes up to a week to get entire neighborhoods powered back up -- forget Internet access -- you know there is something wrong with the current system.

Enter a new report about microgrids from green technology and trends market watcher Pike Research. The analysis predicts that the generation capacity of distributed energy resources that live off the public grid will grow to approximately 1.6 gigawatts by 2017, which is a 164 percent growth rate over the installed base today. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see that estimate climb after this week's incidents. Most businesses simply cannot survive an outage of one week, so the economic fallout of the hurricane will be devastating in the weeks to come -- especially in light of the sluggish economic recovery.

Many readers of this blog will automatically associate the word "campus" with educational institutions, and you wouldn't be wrong since they are the biggest proponent of the microgrid concept today. But Pike Research reports that an increasing number of commercial and healthcare campuses are embracing the concept, for obvious reasons. Actually one major obvious reason: they can control their destiny.

One of the biggest decisions that microgrid investors will make over the next six years will obviously focus on what sort of generation technologies will rule the roost. If all the gas generators on my street is any indication, we are still a long way from these microgrids being run primarily from renewable energy options. My guess is that this will be one place where prime fuel cells will probably be popular. But maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised in the years to come.

Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure