For communities and establishments off the grid, power generation has always been a challenge. The sources of power generation are often unreliable or costly to maintain.
Off-the-grid power generation is a challenge in and of itself, while areas with harsh environments are faced with even less reliable power solutions.
Will these challenges continue to be a norm for those off the grid or will the future bring better solutions?
As a leader in solving off-the-grid power challenges and innovators of power generation solutions, we believe that the future will provide opportunities to overcome many of the challenges of remote power generation. Whether the needs are small-scale supplemental power or the ability to provide consistent power, we are finally seeing more reliable and economically sound solutions.
We have all watched power generation change over our lifetimes, but what does the future hold for these communities in harsh remote environments?
Renewable and Cleaner Energy
Many of us desire cleaner energy for a more sustainable future.
To achieve this, we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels and invest in alternative sources of energy that are clean, accessible, affordable, sustainable, and reliable.
We have seen innovation over the last 50 years from solar, wind, fuel cells and other renewable energy sources. As a society, we are just now beginning to see these energy sources as viable options to make for more efficient and sustainable power. But, it’s estimated that by 2050, 90% of all decarbonization solutions will involve renewable energy. (IRENA)
In order to develop reliable solutions or infrastructures without the volition of fossil fuel costs, better renewable energy sources must be innovated.
The future result of this will provide mitigation on climate impact, create opportunities for self-sufficiency for communities in remote locations and offer more sustainable and cost-effective long-term sources of energy.
As a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell manufacturer, we have had the opportunity to see our technology help shape the future of renewable energy and begin to shape these future opportunities.
Stable and Reliable Energy
Current power generation solutions are not always stable or reliable sources of energy. This is especially true for communities in harsh environments. One of the major challenges for power generation in remote environments is that generators and other power sources lose efficiency in extreme weather.
Even things like expanding the power grid can be inefficient as it takes a heavy infrastructure cost and may not provide reliable power to those near the end of the power grid.
This can cause traditional means of power generation to provide unreliable and unstable energy for the community.
As we innovate, we are finding solutions to being able to provide more stable and reliable power no matter where the community is and the environment in which they live and work.
For example, when waste heat is utilized, SOFC can obtain over 85% efficiency. Early designs utilized high temperatures that result in high cell costs, long start-up and shut-down cycles, and unacceptable performance degradation rates due to reaction between component materials and electrode sintering.
Over time, new innovations have allowed a significant drop in operating temperatures providing a more realistic utilization of the technology.
As we continue to innovate with renewable energy and other sources of power, we will see more realistic applications for long-term power solutions in remote locations without the need of expanding current power grid infrastructures.
Remote Monitoring for Power Systems
Many problems in power generation can be diagnosed and fixed early if someone is available to monitor the energy source consistently. For most remote locations, this is unrealistic. The power systems are often not easily accessible and there is not always an expert available to properly diagnose the problem. This allows repairable issues to eventually become advanced failures.
With advancements in technology, remote monitoring will allow for early detection of developing issues. This minimizes potential downtime, can reduce operational costs, and can lead to improved long-term reliability of the power systems.
Remote monitoring would provide real-time updates and can be handled by a third party. This would allow for proper communication or dispatching to handle issues.
Streamlined Maintenance For Power Generators
One of the biggest challenges of commercial power generators is the burdensome maintenance. Annual maintenance is a minimum recommendation for most current industrial generators. This can be a hassle, especially for those in remote locations where the generators are not easily accessible. Because maintenance can be a hassle, it is often overlooked leading to more costly issues down the line.
As technology develops, power systems will be able to run more efficiently and effectively allowing for less maintenance.
We are beginning to see this take place now with our SOFC generators. Our SOFC generators require practically no maintenance.
Combining advancements in technology with remote monitoring and the end users will have virtually no regular maintenance to worry about.
The Future is Closer Than We Think
Currently, a number of communities are reliant on diesel generators because they are accessible. It has been reliable technology for so many people for so many years because of its practicality. But as more power systems emerge, it provides opportunities for people to find energy solutions that are more catered to their unique needs.
Investments in innovation of various energy sources are bringing us closer to experiencing the future of power generation. We have already seen this with the practical applications of renewable energy and solutions being provided.
At SPS, we have been excited with how solid oxide fuel cells have allowed us to take one step closer to these future innovations. SOFCs offer flexibility and scalability. With fuel flexibility and the ability to combine supplemental power if needed, SOFC can offer custom solutions for continuous or supplemental energy in a number of various applications.
Efficient energy sources like SOFC aren’t perfect, but they take us one step further to providing remote power that is reliable, accessible, affordable, and sustainable. As we continue innovating to meet distinct needs, we will create a better future for those in need of better power systems.