Caterpillar eyes potential of solar power

Solar power microgrids are coming to your neighborhood courtesy of Caterpillar.

Caterpillar has launched a microgrid solution that can be figured to incorporate thin-film solar panels and various energy storage technologies. Caterpillar has launched an integrated micro-grid solution which combines solar PV and energy storage with the company’s power generation equipment. Cat Microgrid Technology is available in a range from 10kW to 100MW of modular solutions.

It can be configured to include thin-film solar panels, Caterpillar generator sets and a selection of energy storage technologies, including ultracapacitors and lithium-ion batteries. As might be expected, Caterpillar said the microgrid technology is suitable for “islanded” applications such as telecoms towers, rural electrification, mining and industrial facilities where the systems can use a combination of green energy, storage and backup, most likely in the form of diesel generators, to form complete energy networks.

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.

cat-e1462556327300The 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 plus 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.

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