Areas located in remote locations that have no access to power grids are often compelled to depend on non-renewable energy resources to keep their generators running. It is expensive to deliver fuel to secluded areas which is why these areas need special measures for keeping their generators running. Taking this problem in account, Caterpillar recently came up with microgrid solution that will bring down the level of fuel consumption and will open gates for better usage of renewable energy resources for power production. It will be a boon for off-grid area especially those located in low temperature. Even those areas that have access to power grids can benefit from this project as these can be connected with regional grids, offering backup power and best shaving to enhance dependence and bring down overall electricity costs.
Storage capacity and renewable energy play a key role in increasing the buying price of hybrid micro grid, however, this is compensated by lower operating costs that give much more returns as compared to investments. Consequently, the cost of ownership is reduced up to a greater extent. The integrated suite also reduces the time spent in inspection, installation, and designing which means the initial price tag of the product is lower than its counterparts.
The Microgrids offered by Caterpillar can be sized anywhere between 10 kW to 100MW. These can be availed in several off-the-shelf packages and customized solutions. The modular design can be scaled which means buyers can start from smaller versions and then move on to the bigger ones as their requirement changes. Caterpillar owns an off-grid testing site in Arizona that is powered by some 1200kW diesel generators; recently it received an additional backup facility of 500kW via an array of photovoltaic cells that can easily store hybrid energy. This additional backup in form of extra storage and solar energy would help in decreasing fuel consumption in off-grid areas by 33 per cent.
In year 2015, Caterpillar entered into an agreement with First Solar, askng the PV maker to provide solar panels for Cat microgrids. First Solar is currently leading the market of thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) PhotoVoltaic modules. Cadmium telluride panels provide numerous benefits over silicon PV. For instance, these work with better efficiency on cloudy days and are far less expensive in terms of production. Also, these have a much lower temperature coefficient, therefore, these maintain their power output even when temperatures are intolerable. CdTe panels are preferred also because of their lowest carbon footprint in terms of manufacturing.
Contrary to this, CdTe panels have far lesser efficiency as compared with Silicon and are only available in a 15 per cent commercial range. Secondly, Cadmium is a highly abundant element while tellurium is far less available which restricts the number of CdTe panels that can be installed and used. And lastly, Cadmium is a very toxic substance so, when these panels reach at the end of their lives, the users will have to make some extra efforts to recycle these panels.