Microturbines: Back to Normalcy?

by Carter Palmer, Power Systems SpecialistForecast International.

Electricity has long been produced by large plants that distribute power over vast distances. But a small but significant trend has emerged whereby end-users are looking at other, smaller options.  Distributed generation is a phenomenon that promises better, more tailored energy solutions. Both renewable and fossil technologies are being utilized by a growing number of customers looking for cost savings and reliability. The microturbine is one technology that will have a stable future in the distributed generation market.

There was a time when the microturbine market was predicted to be in the USD billions, but that never came to fruition. Rather than USD billions, total microturbine sales are currently measured in the USD millions and look to stay that way for some time. There was recently a significant increase in the market due to a vast Russian order for FlexEnergy turbines priced at $400 million, but that order has presumably been completed. The FlexEnergy order gave a significant value boost to the market, but Forecast International’s Platinum System forecasts a return to 2008 levels in terms of value beginning in 2020.  However, the outlook for unit production will differ slightly from the value outlook due to a new trend forming in Europe.

Microturbines are small in comparison to most gas turbines; output is measured in kilowatts rather than megawatts. There are two new European companies that are coming to market with some unconventional products. Micro Turbine Technology and Bladon Jets have both developed small machines – very small machines. MTT’s EnerTwin produces 3.2 kW of electricity and is optimized for heat production in smaller buildings, while Bladon Jets’ MTG12 comes in at 12 kW and is geared for powering remote mobile phone towers. Although these new microturbines are hitting the market, their overall share is relatively minor in terms of power production and value. Conversely, the EnerTwin and MTG12 will have a significant effect on overall unit totals for microturbines by adding a few hundred machines over the next 10 years.

There always exists the possibility that another large order will significantly boost the market; however, something to the scale of the FlexEnergy order is not the norm. Forecast International’s analysts continue to follow the microturbine market closely in order to detect emerging developments early on.

As an analyst for Forecast International’s Industrial & Marine Turbine Forecast, author Carter Palmer specializes in examining key gas turbine programs for electrical power generation, mechanical drive, and marine propulsion applications.

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