Despite being smaller in scale, distributed renewable energy generation (DREG) sources – such as small wind power, distributed solar photovoltaics and stationary fuel cells – have less need for transmission and, therefore, are positioned to make up a larger portion of worldwide electricity generating capacity in the coming years, according to a new report from Pike Research.
Currently, DREG represents just 1% of total worldwide electric generation capacity. According to the report, annual worldwide installations of DREG will nearly triple between 2012 and 2017, with 232 GW expected to be added over that period to reach 63.5 GW in 2017.
"In a growing number of cases around the world, renewable distributed generation technologies are more cost-effective than centralized installations that require transmission to population centers," says Dexter Gauntlett, a research analyst at Pike Research. "In many ways, momentum is shifting to distributed, renewable sources that give consumers more control over the electricity they consume and generate.
"But in order to reach its full potential, the renewable distributed energy sector will require continued innovation in business models, technology development, utility participation, and investment in an uncertain economic climate," he adds.
Although small wind will play a role in this expansion, the large majority of new installations will be solar PV installations, which the research firm expects will total 210 GW between 2012 and 2017.