Saturday, December 19, 2015

Offsite Power Equipment And Component Supply Chains

It's ten o'clock at night somewhere and you're running an off-grid power source for some remote site, or even an urban site on the grid that needs back-up power. Suddenly some component in the generator fails and part of your site is without power. Your smart microgrid software management system kicks in and instantly routes power from other generators to the affected area. Coverage is instantly back on. In theory, this is how every microgrid power system should work. In reality, everything comes down to the grid's supply chains.

Hydrocarbon-based power generators are well understood after decades of use in construction and mining. Renewable energy micropower systems are just now coming into their own. The recently concluded 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (aka Paris COP21) climate and energy accords will make any hydrocarbon-based power source increasingly expensive in perpetuity. The market for off-site renewable power thus gets a big global regulatory boost.

The major equipment providers should start retooling now to offer the kinds of off-grid renewable power sources that will now be in vogue. The component supply chains for these things are not always completely portable to renewables. Putting solar panels on a generator means sorting through lots of Chinese panel makers and German rack makers. A lot of Chinese solar companies won't be around in a decade as that country's industry shakeout proceeds. Equipment makers should choose their solar suppliers with future reliability and surge order capacity in mind.

Quite a few apartment complexes and office towers here in San Francisco have some kind of power backup system. The property managers will have to seriously consider replacing any diesel-powered systems they own with renewable systems once COP21 emissions controls become US standards. Here comes a bonanza for equipment companies riding the leading edge of generator and storage system adaptation. The ones whose products survive will do their homework now on solar and battery components.