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Distributed generation capacity is shaping up to be an important part of the new energy economy, with Navigant Research anticipating that annual installations of distributed energy resources (DERs) will outpace centralized generation additions three-fold by 2024.

This growth comes as developed countries are turning to intermittent power sources like solar and wind to reduce emissions and provide backup power to aging grids during disasters. Meanwhile, in developing countries, distributed generation is facilitating access to power for previously unelectrified areas and ensuring more reliable power to others.

This atmosphere of change highlights a broader move toward a new energy economy that is by more reliant on decentralized generation, independent power production, and microgrids. And all of these developments create the need for smart microgrids that can balance everything out.

One platform-based approach capable of integrating various DERs is offered by Fairbanks Morse Engine. The company's DER platform works by integrating the company's most efficient diesel engine with various DERs to provide facilities with consistent power. Fairbanks has been manufacturing diesel gensets for decades, but now it is responding to the changing times with a service that integrates the latest version of its diesel engine technology with multiple DER power resources. The platform is useful for users who want to generate their own power at any type of facility -- whether it is remote, off grid, or grid-tied. 

Adam Forni, Senior Research Analyst with Navigant Research, notes that “generator manufacturers like Fairbanks Morse are pushing disruption by providing new platform-based solutions that are efficient, flexible, and leverage remote monitoring, controls, and predictive analytics.”

Fairbanks Morse's platform turns its diesel engine into a smart genset equipped with advanced controls that enable it to interact with remote parties and respond to signals beyond just the loss of utility power. The platform can be equipped with data and cloud monitoring services and works with all types of distributed energy resources, from solar and wind to energy storage and combined heat and power. 

The platform enables independent power producers and C&I end customers to integrate the DERs of their choosing to operate fully as an independent microgrid or, where available, participate in ancillary market services such as demand response.

Platforms like this are useful for remote areas that don’t have power or only see intermittent access, remote mining operations, military installations, and even facilities and towns in developed countries that want a backup to grid power.

For example, manufacturing facilities on islands that experienced months-long outages following Hurricane Harvey could find hybrid DER-diesel generation platforms like the one offered by Fairbanks Morse's useful for ensuring that operations can continue during an extended loss of grid power.

Platform-based approaches like this transforming the way electricity is produced and consumed globally. The result is an emerging grid that is cleaner, more distributed, and increasingly intelligent.


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