Caterpillar – the company known for building some of the biggest, baddest construction hardware on the planet has launched a new product line: CAT Microgrid Technology powered with Solar Power. Caterpillar’s product line is focused on mining, telecoms and remote communities, but a push by the likes of SolarCity, The State of New York and Community Solar, and you’ll soon see why Microgrids will reshape how your neighborhood gets it electricity.
Officially, Caterpillar is aiming toward the mining and telecom community – industries it knows well as one of their largest suppliers and builders. In particular, Remote Mining Locations are known for their diesel generators and expensive energy costs – and Renewable Energy installations have been shown to cost 70% less. Even in these times of cheap oil, a barrel of diesel fuel will costs three to four times the amount of the fuel itself to get it to the site. The main selling points are:
- Increased energy efficiency with no reliance on the grid and optimal total cost of ownership
- Efficient power that can be produced where and when it is needed without transmission lines and transformer losses
- High performance, scalable system designed and built using standardised building blocks that are easy and quick to install even in challenging environments.
The REAL PRIZE is much larger though – this prize is building networks of Microgrids across the current electrical grid. We already have an entire island that lives off of nothing but solar power. Alaska, the world’s leader, has hundreds of microgrids, some that have been running for 50 years. Hawaii – a naturally isolated microgrid – has signed on for 100% Renewable Energy by 2045, and they’ve started down that path with significant Solar Power + Battery Systems from SolarCity and TeslaEnergy. Found in a white paper located on the Caterpillar Microgrid Site is a Case Study of a Tropical Island. The reason these remote locations are going with solar power backed microgrids is simple: Money. Caterpillar sees a distributed rooftop, island power system paying itself off in under Five Years – without incentives – and using batteries.
After receiving significant damage from Hurricane Sandy, in order to protect strategic state resources from expected future superstorms and rising ocean levels, the State of New York has decided that Microgrids are the future. The State quantified the following benefits:
- Energy benefits, including energy cost savings and reductions in the cost of expanding or maintaining energy generation or distribution capacity
- Reliability benefits, which stem from reductions in exposure to power outages that are considered to be within the control of the local utility
- Power quality benefits, including reductions in the frequency of voltage sags and swells or reductions in the frequency of momentary power interruptions
- Environmental benefits, such as reductions in the emissions of air pollutants
- Public safety, health and security benefits, which include reductions in fatalities, injuries, property losses, or other damages and costs that may be incurred during prolonged power outages. Such outages are generally attributable to major storms or other events beyond the control of the local utility
Yesterday, we reported on SolarCity taking a big step at delivering solar power at night via a combination of local solar power, battery storage and electrical power grid services. When we combine these types of technical developments on the commercial and island level, with consumer level innovations like the Tesla Powerwall hitting customers now, clues that Tesla is working on a “bi-directional” home charging station, individual solar modules being put on the internet and the White House pushing Community Solar – we can clearly see that the time of dominance by large, centralized power plants is giving way.
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