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Distributed Energy: The Future is Rosy

Linda Hardesty

There are several factors making distributed generation technologies such as fuel cells and turbines attractive for the future as a replacement for grid-generated electricity.

One of the biggest factors is the low price of natural gas. Fuel cells and turbines that run on natural gas benefit from price declines, according to IDC Community Insights. And the Energy Information Administration predicts these low prices to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.

A second factor making distributed energy look more desirable is fallout from Hurricane Sandy. The electricity grid in New York and New Jersey took a beating from the storm with outages lasting for weeks. And the cost to bury transmission lines is prohibitive. A better solution for future storms might be distributed energy resources integrated as part of smart buildings and community micro-grids.

For example, New York University’s combined heat and power (CHP) plant, which uses natural gas and steam turbines, remained operational during Hurricane Sandy, while many nearby buildings lost power. Fuel cells also have received praise for their reliability during and after storms.

Fuel cell companies such as UTC Power and Bloom Energy have a bright future, predicts IDC. UTC Power is being acquired ClearEdge Power. And Bloom Energy announced big wins with eBay and AT&T in 2012.



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