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Can Nanogrids Move Humanity Forward?

In the next 10 years, two-thirds of global economic growth will be in developing countries. Yet, 800 million people currently have no access to clean water and 400 million people in India alone have no electricity. By 2040, Africa will have more people than China and India combined. How can so much growth occur where so many people do not have access to basic necessities to live? The answer may lie with Nanogrids.

By 2023, nanogrid installation revenues could reach $60 billion, up from $37.8 billion by the end of 2014. Because nanogrids are small, technologically simple and inexpensive compared to larger, more sophisticated grids, they can be set-up quickly and affordably even in remote regions of the world.

Dr. Rajendra Singh, a Clemson University Professor and green energy expert, firmly believes that nanogrids will transform emerging markets: “The world is about to witness transformational changes in electricity infrastructures. Emerging and underdeveloped economies that now lack these infrastructures will be able to leapfrog a century of electrical progress in developed countries.”

Dr. Singh sees a trend away from alternating current (AC) toward more efficient and less expensive direct current (DC). The fact is, 70 percent of the world’s central grid-based electricity is lost in generation, transmission and distribution. Furthermore, solar photovoltaic panels, batteries and fuel cells already generate and store DC power, reducing the conversion to AC power and thus improving efficiency.

These nanogrids might power just a few homes per grid, but the ease at which they can be implemented makes all the difference. Think about it. Connecting a few low-cost solar panels to small-scale desalination plants might start putting a dent in the 800 million people with no other means of accessing clean water. Although mobile devices are becoming increasingly important to emerging market commerce, finding reliable power to charge them is a limiting factor.

But nanogrids aren’t just growing in emerging markets. Although the fastest growing segments for nanogrids are the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa, North America is currently the largest nanogrid market.

Nanogrids are just getting started. According to a report by Navigant Research, nanogrids tied to the central grid can be implemented in electric vehicle (EV) charging, emergency power back-up for buildings and even for reducing peak utility demand charges. What’s more, major companies like Bosch, Eaton, Emerson Network Power, Johnson Controls and NRG Energy are active in the nanogrid market. This is the start of an important trend toward investments in smart city infrastructure.

And when the time comes, global manufacturing partners will be there to build the technology that will transform the lives of millions of people around the world, making our cities smarter.

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