Hybrid independent power plants
There are many situations in which electricity is needed but regular mains electricity isn’t readily available, or the cost and effort of connecting to the mains may not be justified. In these situations an independent power plant is the solution.
There are many types of independent sources of electrical energy that can be used: a generator set, storage batteries, or solar power may all do the job. All of these options have advantages and disadvantages.
Generators can operate at any time, and have a long life; but they can be noisy and smelly, they can use lots of expensive fuel, and they aren't very efficient when the power demand is small; but they can operate at any time, and have a long life.
Storage batteries are unobtrusive, and work all the time until they have to be recharged; but they are expensive and don't last forever.
Solar power is also unobtrusive, and free to use once it has been installed; but to make a solar installation big enough to supply the greatest demands is expensive, and solar doesn't work at night or in heavily cloudy weather.
The best strategy is to combine all of these options into a hybrid independent power plant.
A hybrid independent power plant combines different ways of providing electrical power; but it isn't just a collection of different sources of electricity: each of these sources has different characteristics – different strengths and weaknesses. A hybrid independent power plant combines their strengths, and avoids their weaknesses to produce a synergy that is better than the sum of its parts.
The simplest hybrid independent power plant incorporates just a generator set and storage batteries. This combination brings great advantages.
Sophisticated modern generator sets, such as Eniquest's PowerMaker range, are extremely quiet; however, even they make some noise, and all generator sets unavoidably produce exhaust fumes and heat, so the less time a generator set runs the better. Generator sets are at their most efficient when they are producing lots of power – when the demand on them is very low they are much less efficient.
A generator set is at its best when it runs for as short a time as possible, while producing lots of power.
Storage batteries store energy effectively for a long time with little loss, and provide power silently, unobtrusively, and on demand.
Storage batteries are at their most efficient when the least amount of power is drawn from them. Even the best of storage batteries lose some of their energy, and the greater the power is that is drawn from them the more energy they lose.
Storage batteries are expensive to replace, and have a relatively short life, especially if they are discharged too deeply (though quality storage batteries do last a long time).
Storage batteries are at their best when they are no larger than they need be, and are providing a small amount of power.
Hybrid independent power plant
When storage batteries and a generator set are combined into a hybrid independent power plant the best qualities of each come into play. Electricity is provided silently and unobtrusively by the storage batteries, and when the batteries need recharging the generator set does it quickly at a time that is most convenient, so that any disturbance is minimised. This hybrid combination means that both the generator set and the storage batteries are able to do just what they do best and are able to avoid doing what they don't do well.
Eniquest's Power Skid range is an example of this type of hybrid independent power plant.
A more complex hybrid independent power plant may also incorporate a renewable source of energy such as solar panels. Solar panels provide free power, but equally importantly in the isolated places where independent power is commonly used, they greatly reduce the consumption of fuel which can be difficult and expensive to provide.
Solar panels provide a steady, lasting flow of power when the sun is shining on them, but they can't provide for a short-term heavy demand for power, and they don't provide much power when the sun isn't shining, or any power at night when the demand for electricity may be highest.
Solar hybrid independent power plant
When solar panels are combined with the generator set and storage batteries of a hybrid independent power plant these weaknesses are countered by the strengths of the other components. Each of the components of the hybrid independent power plant are able to do just what they do best: the solar panels provide power to charge the storage batteries for free and greatly reduce the use of fuel; the generator set charges the storage batteries quickly when needed, and the storage batteries provide quiet, unobtrusive power when the solar panels aren't producing.
Eniquest's Hybrid Power Plant range is an example of this type of hybrid independent power plant.
The hybrid independent power plant is a sophisticated and effective way of providing power, when power from the mains isn't possible or convenient.
Independent power plants
- Independent energy solutions overview
- Generator sets for independent power plants
- Hybrid independent power plants
- Sizing your independent plant
- Independent energy system components
- Using a conventional generator set
Independent energy system components
- Control system
- Solar panel
- Solar controller
- Storage battery bank
- Battery charger
Independent energy system concepts
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