Remote communities often rely on diesel generators for their power needs, but this comes with high costs and environmental impacts. A better solution is to combine diesel generators with energy storage systems (ESS) and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, creating a hybrid system that can reduce fuel consumption, increase reliability, and lower emissions. In this article, we will explore the challenges and opportunities of integrating ESS with diesel generators, and provide some best practices and recommendations for designing, installing, and operating such hybrid systems. We will also look at some examples of existing or planned projects that use this approach in different parts of the world.
Challenges and opportunities of integrating ESS with diesel generators
Integrating ESS with diesel generators is not a simple task, as it involves technical and economic challenges such as sizing, control, and optimization. For example, how to determine the optimal capacity and type of ESS, how to coordinate the operation of ESS and diesel generators, and how to maximize the use of solar power and minimize the fuel consumption. However, ESS can also offer many benefits and opportunities for overcoming these challenges, by providing backup power, peak shaving, frequency regulation, and voltage support.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), hybrid systems with ESS can reduce fuel consumption by up to 60% and emissions by up to 70%, compared to diesel-only systems. Moreover, ESS can improve the reliability and resilience of remote power systems, especially during natural disasters or grid outages. As Rodrigo D. Trevizan, a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories, said: “Integrating energy storage with diesel generation can significantly reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of remote power systems, while improving their reliability and resilience.”
Best practices and recommendations for integrating ESS with diesel generators
To successfully integrate ESS with diesel generators, there are some practical guidance and recommendations that should be followed. First, the type and characteristics of ESS should be carefully selected, considering factors such as cost, performance, lifetime, and maintenance. There are different types of ESS, such as batteries, flywheels, or supercapacitors, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
For example, batteries have high energy density and low cost, but they also have limited lifetime and require frequent replacement. Flywheels have high power density and long lifetime, but they also have high cost and low efficiency. Supercapacitors have high power density and fast response, but they also have low energy density and high self-discharge. Second, the mode and strategy of operation should be optimized, considering factors such as load profile, solar irradiance, fuel price, and grid availability.
There are different modes and strategies of operation, such as grid-forming, grid-following, or grid-supporting, each with its own implications for the control and optimization of hybrid systems. For example, grid-forming mode means that the ESS acts as the main source of power and controls the frequency and voltage of the system, while the diesel generators and PV panels follow the ESS. Grid-following mode means that the diesel generators act as the main source of power and control the frequency and voltage of the system, while the ESS and PV panels follow the diesel generators.
Grid-supporting mode means that the ESS and PV panels act as supplementary sources of power and support the frequency and voltage of the system, while the diesel generators act as backup sources. Third, the data and examples from authoritative sources should be consulted, to learn from the best practices and experiences of other projects that have integrated ESS with diesel generators.
For instance, Wärtsilä, a global leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets, has installed several hybrid power plants that combine ESS, PV, and diesel generators, such as the Levelock Village of Alaska or the Aggreko hybrid power plant in Papua New Guinea. These projects have demonstrated the feasibility and benefits of integrating ESS with diesel generators, as well as the challenges and lessons learned.
As Andy Tang, vice president of Wärtsilä Energy Storage, Solar and Integration division, said: “We have seen that hybrid systems with energy storage can provide reliable and cost-effective power for remote communities, while reducing their dependence on diesel fuel and enhancing their environmental sustainability.”
In conclusion, integrating ESS with diesel generators is a promising solution for remote communities, as it can reduce fuel consumption, increase reliability, and lower emissions. However, it also involves technical and economic challenges that require careful planning and optimization. In this article, we have discussed the challenges and opportunities of integrating ESS with diesel generators, and provided some best practices and recommendations for designing, installing, and operating such hybrid systems.