Caterpillar officially launched its Microgrid offering, and demonstrated that technology at its proving grounds just outside Tuscon, Arizona on Wednesday.
Cat Microgrid technology, comprises solar panels, state-of-the-art energy storage, and advanced monitoring and control systems to Caterpillar’s traditional line of reliable power generation equipment, including Cat generator sets, switchgear, uninterruptible power supplies and automatic transfer switches.
The company is particularly focused on the positive impact the solution can have in the developed world, and believe the marriage of solar technology, storage and traditional generation sets can help make inroads in bringing power to the vast swathes of the human population currently denied.
Ideal for a broad range of applications such as telecommunications towers, industrial facilities, mining installations, and remote villages, islands and rural communities, the suite is designed to reduce fuel expenses, lower utility bills, decrease emissions, and reduce the total cost of ownership while increasing energy efficiency in even the most challenging environments.
Available worldwide through the Cat dealer network, Cat Microgrid technologies can be purchased as turnkey installations or design-to-order solutions. Ranging from 10 kW to 100 MW, units can be added in a modular fashion to create systems customized for a variety of power needs.
Caterpillar has proven the real-world value of its microgrid technology by commissioning a system at the company’s Tucson Proving Ground in Arizona, USA. In March, facility managers installed 500 kW of photovoltaic solar power along with 500 kW of short-term energy storage in the form of batteries and ultracapacitors to supplement power that previously had been supplied solely by three C15 410-kW diesel generator sets. The integrated system is expected to reduce fuel consumption by approximately 33 per cent.
“With the declining cost of renewable energy sources and rapid advances in energy storage technology, the time is right to provide an integrated application for remote power,” said Rick Rathe, general manager of new ventures for Caterpillar’s Electric Power business. “Cat Microgrid technologies deliver an innovative, financially viable way to incorporate sustainable sources of energy into our existing portfolio of traditional power generation offerings.”
In a hybrid microgrid, renewable sources of energy can account for any percentage of the load depending on conditions. Excess energy produced by renewables is stored for stabilization as well as for use during unfavourable conditions, such as cloudy days and night time. Generator sets supplement the system by powering the microgrid when energy from other sources is unavailable.
Cat Microgrid applications can include any combination of the following elements:
• thin-film solar modules, which capture more energy, especially in high-temperature, high-humidity, desert, and coastal climates;
• energy storage such as ultracapacitors, lithium-ion, or rechargeable metal-air storage that provides the most economical and advanced energy storage with controls and monitoring down to the cell level;
• Cat generator sets powered by diesel, heavy fuel oil (HFO), natural gas, biogas, or dual fuel, offering high power density, high-part load efficiencies, and excellent capability to follow loads; and
• the Cat Microgrid Master Controller to monitor and optimize power usage in the microgrid.
To support the development of the technologies over the past year, Caterpillar has invested in Fluidic Energy for energy storage, signed a strategic alliance with First Solar for an integrated photovoltaic (PV) solar solution, and made an equity investment in Powerhive, an energy solutions provider for emerging markets.