Electricity is so much a part of modern life that most people take it for granted—but when it comes to industrial business, it might be time to rethink your assumptions. Traditionally, electricity for industrial operations came from utility plants and pubic grids, which may seem convenient but can have a number of hidden pitfalls. In recent years, more and more companies have chosen greater power autonomy, through processes such as distributed power generation.
Distributed Vs. Traditional Generation
Distributed power generation is a deviation from the conventional power model. Typically, electricity is generated in massive quantities at dedicated power plants, and then distributed to individual and corporate users across a transmission grid. Distributed power generation, however, involves the generation of power either on-site or very close to the point of use. Many distributed generation systems are not even connected to the conventional grid, although they can often be linked in case of emergencies.
There are a variety of ways to set up distributed power generation. Depending on the available resources, a facility may be able to generate power from a variety of different sources and different fuel-powered generators. A system can be set up for anything from a small plant to a large industrial complex. There are a number of distinct advantages to this model of power production; here are the top five courtesy of Polaris.
1. Remoteness Resolved with On-Site Power Generation
One of the greatest benefits of distributed power generation is that it eliminates the problem of remoteness. In the traditional model, many locations are unable to connect to the power grid, due to problems such as natural barriers or great distances. This means that industrial facilities cannot be built in places such as remote islands, mountainous areas, or even some countries—which can cause difficulties for many different industries. Even if facilities can be built and connected to a grid, the businesses often must rely on power imports, which leaves them extremely vulnerable to market volatility. This can significantly raise expenses and stunt growth; it also leaves them open to power interruptions.
Distributed power generation, however, allows industrial facilities to be built almost anywhere, including remote or inaccessible locations. This can prove useful for many different industries that are forced to contend with geography, such as:
- Oil and gas
- Scientific research
Facilities that previously could not be built are made possible under a distributed generation model, and facilities that were forced to deal with unreliability and high prices due to remoteness can produce a cheap and constant supply of power.
2. Secure Energy with On-Site Power Generation
Another major problem remedied by distributed generation is that of power security. While most utility grids are fairly reliable, they are occasionally subject to disruptions such as economic instability, bad weather, or even natural disasters. Due to the distances involved in conventional power grids, an issue in one area can completely shut down operations in a facility elsewhere. A distributed power generation system ensures that a facility can continue operations even when there are problems somewhere else. This type of system can ensure power security despite world events, weather problems, or other occurrences.
3. Flexibility with On-Site Power Generation
This type of power system also has the advantage of flexibility. Distributed generation can be implemented relatively quickly; at Polaris they know most large scale systems can be implemented in a year or even less. As demand increases as a certain site, capacity can typically be expanded quickly and easily.
In addition, distributed generation allows a facility to adjust power output as needs allow. This means that power production becomes more responsive and efficient. In the traditional energy model, around 70% of the fuel consumed is not actually used for direct power. There is a great deal of power loss due to transmission. Distributed power, however, is more flexible and effective, with efficiency rates of up to 50% or more. Plus, distributed systems that are connected to the power grid can in some cases sell surplus power back to the power company, allowing the business to actually make a profit off of their power generation rather than facing a major utility expense.
4. Going Green with On-Site Power Generation
Due in part to this increased efficiency, distributed power generators are often more environmentally friendly than other forms of power. Many distributed power generation systems are based on environmentally friendly power sources, such as wind, solar, or biofuels. These are less polluting than fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coal. Even if fossil fuels are required to power the system, however, a distributed generator is more efficient than traditional power systems because less energy is lost in transmission. This great efficiency means less fuel must be used, reducing pollution and improving environmental protection.
A major trend noticed at Polaris is that many companies prefer to use greener power sources. Not only does this provide a sense of satisfaction, it demonstrates corporate responsibility and social consciousness. As emissions regulations grow ever more stringent, this can help corporations stay on the good side of governments and regulatory bodies. In addition, more and more customers are demanding green products, and energy efficiency can help boost public image.
5. On-Site Power Generation Is Gaining Momentum
Finally, distributed power is growing more and more widespread. Skepticism, inertia, and tight regulations are all slowly disappearing as alternative energy sources and power setups have increased in popularity. Regulatory agencies are growing much more accepting of distributed power generation, and more and more industries are turning to alternative power systems for their energy needs.
Although there are some situations where it may not be ideal, distributed power generation can be an excellent alternative to the traditional power system. Polaris is helping companies and industrial facilities around the world discover the benefits of distributed generation.