What is Distributed Generation? (Clear Guide) + PDF

What is Distributed Generation?

What is Distributed Generation? – Solar panels and combined heat and power are two examples of distributed generation technologies that produce energy at or close to the location where it will is utilized. Distributed generation may power a single building, like a house or a company, or it may be a component of a microgrid (a smaller grid that is connected to the larger energy delivery system), such as a sizable factory, military post, or university campus.

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What is Distributed Generation?

The electrical generation and storage process known as distributed generation is carried out by a variety of small, grid-connected or distribution system-connected devices known as distributed energy resources. Distributed generation is also known as distributed energy, on-site generation (OSG), or district/decentralized energy (DER).

Traditional power facilities are centralized and frequently need the transmission of electric energy over great distances, including coal-fired, gas-fired, and nuclear power plants, hydroelectric dams, and large-scale solar power plants. While only having capacities of 10 megawatts (MW) or less, DER systems are decentralized, modular, and more adaptable technologies that are situated near the demand they service. These systems, which in this case are referred to as hybrid power systems, can have several generation and storage components.

DER systems increasingly play a crucial part in the distribution of electric power and generally employ renewable energy sources, including small hydro, biomass, biogas, solar, wind, and geothermal energy. The term “distributed energy storage system” is frequently used to refer to a grid-connected electricity storage device (DESS). DER systems inside a smart grid may be managed and coordinated via an interface. Energy may be gathered from a variety of sources thanks to distributed generation and storage, which may also have a positive influence on the environment and supply security.

The erratic nature of these electrical supplies is one of the main problems with the integration of DER, like solar power, wind power, etc. In the distribution system, this uncertainty may result in the following issues: In addition to increasing strain on the transmission network and necessitating complex optimization techniques to balance the network, it also makes supply-demand interactions highly complex and may result in reverse power flow from the distribution system to the transmission system.

In contrast to the conventional, centralized power grid, microgrids are contemporary, localized, small-scale networks (macrogrid). Microgrids have the ability to function independently of a centralized grid, increase grid resilience, and lessen system disruptions. They are primarily low-voltage AC grids that are established by the community they serve and frequently run on diesel generators. The quantity of carbon emitted is greatly reduced by the use of solar hybrid power systems, which are becoming more and more common in microgrids.

What is Distributed Generation?
Distributed generation of electricity (Reference: researchgate.net)

Technologies of Distributed Generation

Distributed energy resource (DER) systems are small-scale power generating or storage technologies that are used to supplement or replace the conventional electric power supply. Typically, these systems range in size from 1 kW to 10,000 kW. A common characteristic of DER systems is their high initial capital expenses per kilowatt. DER systems, also known as distributed energy storage systems, are devices that function as storage (DESS).

The following tools/technologies may be used in DER systems:

  • Cogeneration
  • Fuel cells
  • Hybrid energy sources
  • Micro heat and power fusion (MicroCHP)
  • Microturbines
  • Photovoltaic systems
  • Reciprocating engines
  • Small wind turbine systems
  • Stirling motors
  • Or a mix of the aforementioned. For instance, hybrid PV, CHP, and battery systems may completely power single-family homes without incurring high storage costs.


The generators are turned by steam turbines, fuel cells that burn natural gas, microturbines, or reciprocating engines in distributed cogeneration sources. The heated exhaust is then utilized to heat rooms, water, or power an absorptive chiller for air conditioning or other cooling purposes. Distributed energy projects can also use various renewable or low-carbon fuels, such as biofuels, biogas, landfill gas, sewage gas, coal bed methane, syngas, and related petroleum gas, in addition to natural gas-based plans.

According to Delta-ee consultants, the fuel cell micro combined heat and power system surpassed traditional systems in sales in 2012 with 64% of the global market. 2012 saw a total of 20.000 units sold in Japan as part of the Ene Farm initiative. PEM fuel cell units have an expected lifetime of 60,000 hours, which translates to an anticipated lifespan of ten to fifteen years. These units shut down at night. $22,600 before installation, to be exact. A 50,000 unit state subsidy is in place for 2013.

Additionally, waste-to-energy technologies like the Gate 5 Energy System are employed as a distributed energy resource, as are molten carbonate fuel cells and solid oxide fuel cells that run on natural gas, such as those made by FuelCell Energy and the Bloom energy server.

Solar Power

Solar cells combined into solar panels are used in photovoltaics, which is by far the most significant solar technology for distributed generation of solar power. It is a rapidly expanding technology, increasing its installed capacity globally every several years. PV systems span from small, decentralized utility-scale solar power plants to large, centralized rooftop and building-integrated installations for residential, commercial, and industrial use.

While crystalline silicon is the most common PV technology, around 10% of photovoltaic deployment worldwide uses thin-film solar cells. In recent years, PV technology has increased the efficiency with which solar is converted into electricity, decreased the cost of installation per watt, energy payback time (EPBT), and levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), and in 2014, it achieved grid parity in at least 19 distinct markets.

Solar photovoltaic energy is variable and non-dispatchable like the majority of renewable energy sources but has no fuel expenses, operational pollution, and far lower mining and operating safety concerns. Its daily peak power output occurs at about noon local time, and its capacity factor is about 20%.

What is Distributed Generation?
Solar Power (Reference: smart-energy.com)

Wind Power

Wind turbines can be constructed at a utility-scale or as dispersed energy resources. Although they require less maintenance and produce little pollution, dispersed wind energy is far more expensive than other forms of electricity than utility-scale wind. Wind energy is unpredictable and non-dispatchable, just like solar energy. Despite having superior operational safety, wind towers and generators have significant insurable liabilities brought on by strong winds. Wind power and other DER technologies are combined in distributed generation from wind hybrid power systems. The incorporation of wind turbines into solar hybrid power systems is one such example since wind tends to complement solar because the peak operating hours for each system occur at various times of the day and year.

What is Distributed Generation?
Wind Power (Reference: azocleantech.com)

Hydro Power

The most prevalent renewable energy source, hydroelectricity, has already utilized much of its potential or is at risk owing to problems like rising demand for recreational access and environmental effects on fisheries. However, adopting cutting-edge technologies from the twenty-first century, like wave power, can make a lot of new hydropower capacity accessible with little negative environmental effect.

Next-generation kinetic energy turbines that are modular and scalable can be installed in clusters to meet demands on a local, national, international, municipal, and even regional scale. Microhydrokinetic generators use the kinetic energy of moving water, whether it be waves or flow, hence they don’t need dams or impoundments. There is no need to build on the sea floor or coastline, reducing the environmental impact on ecosystems and streamlining the regulatory procedure. Abutments of bridges, piers, docks and other similar structures can be used to tie unconventional microhydro applications, which have no influence on the environment.

What is Distributed Generation?
Hydro Power (Reference: innovationnewsnetwork.com)


Municipal solid waste (MSW) and natural debris, such as sewage sludge, food waste, and animal manure, decompose and release methane-containing gas that may be gathered and utilized as a fuel in gas turbines or microturbines to create power as a distributed energy resource. Furthermore, a California-based business called Gate 5 Energy Partners, Inc. has created a method for turning natural wastes like sewage sludge into biofuel that can be burned to power a steam turbine that generates electricity. The waste source might use this energy instead of grid electricity (such as a treatment plant, farm, or dairy).

Hydro Power

A device for storing distributed energy can be considered a distributed energy resource as well as one that produces power (DE). Application areas for distributed energy storage systems (DESS) include various battery, compressed air, pumped hydro, and thermal energy storage types. Programs like energy storage as a service make it simple to get energy storage for business uses (ESaaS).

PV Storage

Today’s PV systems frequently incorporate rechargeable battery technologies, including lithium-ion, nickel-cadmium, and valve-regulated lead-acid batteries. Lead-acid batteries have a lower energy density and a shorter lifespan when compared to the other varieties. Although lithium-ion batteries are still being developed and are currently about 3.5 times more expensive than lead-acid batteries, they are currently the most common technology used in small-scale, residential PV systems due to their high reliability, low self-discharge (4-6% per year), and low investment and maintenance costs. Additionally, since storage components for PV systems are permanent, lead-acid batteries’ larger weight and poorer energy and power density are not as important as they are for electric cars.

However, given that they are currently being developed vigorously and are anticipated to become more affordable as a result of economies of scale offered by massive production facilities like Gigafactory 1, lithium-ion batteries, like the Tesla Powerwall, have the potential to displace lead-acid batteries in the near future. Additionally, since plug-in electric cars are often parked 95% of the time, their Li-ion batteries may one day be employed as storage devices. This would allow electricity to flow from the car to the power lines and back again. Sodium-sulfur and vanadium redox batteries, two well-known varieties of molten salt and flow batteries, respectively, are other rechargeable batteries that are taken into consideration for distributed PV systems.

What is Distributed Generation?
A PV Storage System (Reference: smart-energy.ag)


The battery in a vehicle-to-grid system may be able to supply electricity to the grid as needed in future generations of electric cars. A DESS might potentially be a network of electric vehicles.


An advanced flywheel energy storage (FES) accelerates a rotor (flywheel) to an extremely high speed of between 20,000 and over 50,000 rpm in a vacuum enclosure in order to store the electricity produced from dispersed resources in the form of angular kinetic energy. As they store and re-feed power into the grid in a couple of seconds, flywheels are able to react swiftly.

Integration of Distributed Generation With The Grid

Distributed generation resources would be linked to the same transmission grid as central stations for reliability concerns. Incorporating these resources into a grid raises several technical and financial concerns. Power quality, voltage stability, harmonics, dependability, protection, and control are technical issues. All combinations of distributed and central station generation must be taken into account when analyzing the behavior of protective devices on the grid. The distribution of reserves and frequency control are two grid-wide operations that may be impacted by a large-scale deployment of distributed power. As a result, the grid now includes smart grid features, virtual power plants, and grid energy storage, such as electricity for petrol stations. Utility companies and resource management companies can clash.

There are unique integration challenges with each dispersed generating resource. Due to their unpredictable and sporadic output, wind and solar PV both pose significant voltage and frequency stability problems. Mechanical grid equipment, such as load tap changers, are impacted by these voltage problems because they respond too often and degrade much more quickly than utilities had anticipated. Additionally, because there is no way to store energy during peak solar production, businesses must quickly ramp up production just before nightfall to make up for the loss of solar generation. Future grid operators will be very concerned about this fast ramp rate’s production of the “duck curve,” as it is known in the industry. If storage can be used, these problems can be resolved. It has been demonstrated that flywheels offer good frequency control. Flywheels are also more recyclable than batteries, which means they retain their power and energy after many cycles ( on the order of 10,000 cycles). When used in sufficient quantities, short-term batteries can assist in maintaining voltage profile, flatten the duck curve, and eliminate fluctuations in generator consumption. Cost, however, is a significant barrier to energy storage because each method is impractically expensive to manufacture on a large scale and has a lower energy density than liquid fossil fuels. The usage of intelligent hybrid inverters is a last crucial technique for supporting the integration of photovoltaics for properly distributed generation. When there is more energy generation than energy consumption, intelligent hybrid inverters store energy. These inverters supply power easing the distribution system during periods of peak use.

Cost Factors of Distributed Generation

Additionally, cogenerators cost more per watt than central generators. They are popular because the majority of buildings already consume fuel, and cogeneration may add value to the fuel. Local production does not suffer from the Joule effect, often resulting in transformers losing 8–15% of their energy or electrical transmission losses on long-distance power lines.

Combined cycle generating is used in certain bigger sites. Typically, a gas turbine is used in a Rankine cycle to boil water for a steam turbine. The steam cycle’s condenser produces heat that may be used in an absorptive chiller or for space heating. The best thermal efficiencies are now seen in combined cycle plants with cogeneration, frequently reaching 85%.

Small turbines can be employed in nations with high-pressure gas distribution to reduce the gas pressure to household levels while still generating usable electricity. The UK would have access to an extra 2-4 GWe if this were implemented nationwide.

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