The Increasing Focus on Reliability and Resiliency of Power in Industrial Facilities
The vast majority of modern society requires reliable energy. For industrial facilities, either a temporary loss of power or unexpected energy costs can harm the ability to maintain operations. Kurt Koenig explains challenges industrial facilities face and options to affordably satisfy the facilities' power needs.
Q: What challenges are industrial facilities facing regarding power needs?
Kurt: Infrastructure is aging, so industrial facility owners have to determine how to renew their systems in a way that’s cost effective, environmentally responsible and able to address increasing regulations and threats to the grid from storms, fires or cyber issues. To increase resiliency, many are considering a mix of resources, including combined heat and power solutions, natural gas, renewables like wind and solar, or biogas alternatives. Reliability is critical for industrial facilities as their processes require consistent power and energy resources to make their products. A blackout isn’t acceptable, so owners are actively navigating energy efficiency, reliability and sustainability.
Q: What is distributed generation, and how can it help meet resiliency, carbon reduction and cost control goals for industrial facilities?
Kurt: Distributed generation, defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a variety of technologies that generate electricity at or near where it will be used, is becoming more common as a solution to provide resiliency and reliability. It can offset the carbon footprint of an industrial facility because distributed generation often uses renewable energy resources like solar, wind, battery storage, or renewable natural gas and hydrogen.
When it comes to energy, industrial facility owners want predictable costs. A measure of cost certainty can be attained if an industrial facility generates some or all of its own power.
Generating power onsite can avoid power outages caused by lack of availability from the grid or extreme weather events and other outages. It provides consistent, quality power, reduces dependence on the larger power grid and avoids line-loss waste because there’s no long-distance transmission.
Introducing battery storage as part of the distributed generation solution also can aid resiliency and provide cost savings. And combined heat and power solutions bring more efficiencies and reduced fuel costs.
Q. What do you see for the future of industrial power systems?
Kurt: As the energy industry transitions, so will industrial power systems because industrial facilities are some of the largest consumers of energy. Industrial facilities will continue to find ways to manage their power and energy costs while seeking reliability and resiliency with their own power resources. In the short term, natural gas will continue to dominate, but in the future renewable sources and alternative fuels will be a larger part of the mix.
About Our Author
Throughout his 20 years in the power industry, Kurt Koenig has served large utility clients, municipal utilities and small private generation clients. He’s led efforts at industrial facilities as well as educational institutions and healthcare facilities focused on combining energy efficiency, environmental stewardship and resiliency through the deployment of local generation and microgrids.