“Natural gas-fired unit needs to be sized to maintain production operations and geothermal system requirements during periods of grid-based power loss.”
The customer at the initial project review had asked The Energy Alliance Group of Michigan (EAG) to incorporate measures that would assure continuation of production in the event of a loss of grid power under any circumstances. The cost of the system was deemed relatively insignificant compared to the potential loss associated with the loss of power, even for a relatively short period of time. Not only would production come to a halt, but because of a perishable process, a cascade effect would damage future production. A short term power loss would ultimately create significant financial damage – disruption was not an option!
Is the need for back-up power an unusual request?
A recent article from CNBC detailed the traditional threats to power distribution and a new threat that is causing business owners to consider back-up power sources:
“Attacks on major utility companies and power networks are an increasing concern for governments and corporations.”
In addition to the threat of an attack on the grid, weather related energy disruption is something businesses are keenly aware of when continuation of production is a concern. A recent report detailing the loss of power due to Hurricane Sandy, which ultimately affected 600,000 customers, describes the existing vulnerabilities of the energy grid that make the desire for energy security a growing trend:
“Our analysis shows that extreme weather does not cause, but rather exacerbates, existing vulnerabilities in the infrastructure and service, which are obscured in daily operations,” Chuanyi Ji
Storms the size of Hurricane Sandy are easily dismissed when concerns about energy security are discussed. At the surface level, storms of Sandy’s magnitude are not the norm and it’s easy to look at them as the exception that most businesses will never have to concern themselves with.
In reality it’s smaller storms which don’t necessarily get the big news coverage that negatively affect businesses on a far greater economic scale. A report created in 2013 by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, described the economic effect of “smaller” storms on a wide variety of businesses:
“Severe weather is the leading cause of power outages in the United States. Between 2003 and 2012, an estimated 679 widespread power outages occurred due to severe weather. Power outages close schools, shut down businesses and impede emergency services, costing the economy billions of dollars and disrupting the lives of millions of Americans.”
When a long term power outage can create a loss of production or disruption of revenue, a back-up plan is worth preparing for. EAG’s project manager, Steven Payer, discussed the specific back-up plan for his present project with this explanation:
“The generator is being sized to maintain fermentation operations on the in-process batches and to keep stored, completed stock at required temperatures. The generator will also be able to maintain some of the building lighting systems in the event of an outage so minimal production operations can continue such as product shipping and receiving.”
While energy efficiency is an important consideration, energy security becomes equally compelling when a loss of power is not an option. In the traditional energy model, where energy was created at a central location and then distributed throughout the grid, energy security was more vulnerable. As a growing number of technologies make on-site energy generation economical, grid disruptions become less of a threat to businesses. Those businesses that demand dependable energy can now take energy security in-house and become less concerned with old and newer threats to the grid!