Zero Genset: $100 Billion Opportunity
Jun 28, 2018 Dr Peter Harrop
Diesel and gas gensets are everywhere from islands to disaster zones, remote transmitters to ships. See them at the back of your hospital and data centre for when the grid dies. They are a growth market at a time when diesel car sales are in free fall but that is just timing. Gensets will also be hit by laws making them more expensive with emission reduction devices, they will also be banned in an increasing number of places as their multiple dangers to health, their noise, flammability, poor reliability, life and cost of ownership are proved to be unnecessary. As with diesel cars, the zero emission alternatives will even become cheaper to buy - the killer blow. Nonetheless, as society and equipment become more mobile and remote from grids, diesel and gas gensets will be bought in larger numbers for a few years yet - possibly peaking at around $30 billion global market size when over 600GW will be deployed.
Potential much larger with universal product
Off grid zero emission generators, despite being custom made, reduce costs much faster than diesel and gas gensets and even grid electricity, much of which is going up in cost. This creates a huge new addressable market. See the IDTechEx report, Off Grid Zero-emission Electricity 2018-2038: New Markets, New Technology Roadmap. It is for replacement of existing diesel and gas gensets and their substitution in future sales but it is also for grid defection. One milestone will be when the building with a solar roof and battery becomes more economical than the grid in a few years. Such buildings, including homes, may stay grid connected but as fringe-of-grid, with the grid used as rarely as possible. Utility income will drop but the more savvy utilities like E-ON already install and run minigrids and microgrids.
Plug and play and modular
There is a big new opportunity here and it is to replace all gensets and much grid power with lower cost zero-emission alternatives that are modular and turnkey. They must start at the touch of a button like the gensets and grid they replace. First they will be bought because they will be cleaner, rapidly installed, more reliable, transportable and with fewer outages. Then they will be bought because they also provide lower cost of electricity and finally they will cost less up front. It is clunky to take a massively intermittent source like solar and a large, expensive, toxic, short-lived lithium-ion battery to provide instant electricity. That is only an opening stage.
Zero Genset: one set of modules merges markets
Let us call it Zero Genset. Most of its potential market will be 1kW to 10MW. The preferred continuous or almost continuous electricity is now demonstrated by Aerial Wind Energy AWE, notably from tethered kites going commercial this year in 30-100 kW versions. Seabased (24kW), Eco Wave Power (100W) and Wello (600W) sell modular wave power already and others sell 300W and 3kW units. Orders are being served with arrays of three of these up to 100MW. Perfect for Zero Genset. Indeed, Seabased has noted that there are many places where adequate waves are continuous and that most of the people on the planet live near the sea. A recent 10MW wave power order in Bali was achieved largely because wave power is invisible, in stark contrast to wind and solar. Almost continuous tidal power from 100W to 2MW has also been well proven and it will come to market soon at the very low power end with useful modules and mobile versions. Many people and projects are near rivers and streams where continuous hydro is available. The IDTechEx report, Wave, Tidal and Hydro Power 2018-2038 gives more.
$100 billion opportunity matching modules to needs
The Zero Genset market will rise to at least $100 billion if it replaces significant grid power. Winners will offer modular power electronics, easy interfaces to desalination, ice making for fish farms, vehicle charging and other applications, a selection of "continuous" zero emission electricity modules (open water tide, wave, river hydro). See the IDTechEx reports, Desalination: Off Grid Zero Emission 2018-2028 and Off Grid Electric Vehicle Charging 2018-2038. Modular other sources that can be matched to load include matching solar dead at night to AWE strongest at night. An unfolding solar path or road would be a valued module. See the IDTechEx report, Electrically Smart Roads 2018-2028.
Wind turbines will have limited use because they are half as efficient when downsized. However, the new large wind turbines with integral water gravity storage will be important at 1-10MW off grid. To be used sparingly, modular batteries must be available but modular supercapacitors will often suffice for short intermittency as with tides and they are virtually fit-and-forget and increasingly part of something else - structural electronics.
Often lithium-ion batteries will lose out to lower cost, repairable, non-flammable Redox Flow Batteries RFB with longer life, recyclable and better charge retention. RFBs are thought of as being the size of a sea container but IDTechEx has been told by one of the world's largest car companies that their research leads them to believe that they will be good in electric cars. If that size is successful then it will also appear in Zero Genset. See the IDTechEx report, Redox Flow Batteries 2018-2028: Markets, Trends, Applications.
Market disrupters step forward
Zero Genset will interest marketing led, innovative companies prepared to collaborate to create many billion dollar businesses by planning a new universal system. It will not interest engineering-led companies in the thrall of managers and investors wanting to incrementally make a better genset or cheaper grid power.