Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Time to invest in solar disruptive off-grid technologies

Guess who is in the disruptive solar off-grid business? Caterpillar - a synonym of everything slow - invests in the technology of the future.

Caterpillar Inc. has run its Tucson proving ground near Green Valley since 1990, putting mining trucks and other massive machines through their paces in the shadow of Freeport-McMoRan's Sierrita mine.
All the while the relatively remote, off-grid facility has been powered solely by Cat's own diesel generators - but now the sun will do part of the work.
The construction machinery giant last week launched a new product line with the christening of a hybrid solar-generator 'microgrid' system at the proving ground.
The proving ground's system consisting of 500 kilowatts' worth of photovoltaic arrays and an equal amount of battery storage linked to the facility's generator system will cut the proving ground's reliance on diesel generation by about one-third, the company said.
It will also serve as a demonstrator for the company's new line of Cat Microgrid products, which range from mobile trailer-mounted rigs to scalable custom, on-site installations, said Rick Rathe, managing director of microgram and energy storage for Caterpillar's electric-power division.
'We're taking that same value proposition out to our customers right now,' said Rathe, who announced the company's new Cat Microgrid branded product offering as the company flipped the switch on the proving ground's microgrid on Wednesday.
Long a leader in large diesel generators, Cat has been looking at integrating renewable energy with combustion generation for some time as prices for photovoltaic panels tumbled and battery technology improved, Rathe said.
'Today, solar energy is a very cost-efficient form of energy more efficient than running diesel generators all the time,' he said.
Cat Microgrid systems combine solar panels, state-of-the-art energy storage and advanced monitoring and control systems with Caterpillar's traditional line of power generation equipment,including Cat generator sets, switchgear, uninterruptible power supplies and automatic transfer switches.
Caterpillar says the systems are ideal for off-grid applications such as telecommunications towers, industrial facilities, mining installations, remote villages and islands and rural communities.
The company also has partnered with two Arizona companies to create its Cat-branded hybrid micro product. Tempe-based First Solar is supplying the thin film photovoltaic panels.
Caterpillar also invested in Scottsdale-based Fluidic Energy for advanced metal-air energy storage technology.

I am convinced solar and other hybrid technologies will at least win a off-grid market niche. But I also think that connected in an intelligent network autonomous energy modules and micro-grids are a better alternative to the centralized grid: