Do you have a plan B for when the backup power supply fails?
Issues with the primary power source or situations which lead to an intentional shut down, for example as a result of hurricanes, wildfires and other extreme weather conditions, can often take well over eight hours to resolve. You can see why power outages are a common occurrence.
So, if you need more time then you just need to install more batteries, right? Well this is one option, however then comes the issue of space. Batteries take up a great deal of room and Utilities don’t have endless amounts of real estate to be able to store them. Diesel generators are another option. However, they are highly polluting, noisy, need frequent regular maintenance and are often not permitted in residential areas due to local ordinances. It’s clear that neither of these are long-term, sustainable solutions which will support future business growth. This is leading many Utilities to explore alternative UPSs. A backup for the backup you might say. And hydrogen fuel cell technology is offering a very compelling business case.
Contrary to storing chemical energy like a battery, a fuel cell actually generates energy itself. In fact, fuel cells can continuously generate electricity as long as they are supplied with fuel (hydrogen) and oxygen. These fuel cell generators, like our GenCell G5rx, are specifically designed for installation at utility substations – offering a ‘fail safe’ solution which can support current requirements and also scale as they change. Fuel cell generators operate as a direct backup power supply – even replacing the old battery room in some cases – or they recharge backup battery rooms and keep them at full power. In the case of our own solution, for up to 10 times longer.
How do they achieve this? Well, fuel cells enable substations to keep their breakers and controls in an operational mode, so that Utilities can quickly restart power remotely and minimize distribution time to end-users once the grid recovers. As a completely clean energy power generation process, fuel cells are very attractive to Utilities not only from a financial perspective in minimizing power interruption but also in supporting their drive to become more sustainable. Another compelling incentive comes from the reintroduction of the 30% tax credit for companies investing in renewable energy technologies, which means that alkaline fuel cells are now more affordable than ever.
As increasing numbers of Utilities successfully test and adopt fuel cells, their ability to provide a reliable, cost-effective and clean backup power supply is becoming much more widely recognized and accepted. With their strong potential for solving a key issue for Utilities, it’s likely that we’ll see fuel cells turn from the much-valued Plan B into Plan A, in the not so distant future!
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