March 25, 2010 | bfeldman | Data Centers, Sustainability

Solar vs. Generator

I was recently asked if you could replace the need of a generator with photovoltaic technology.  If you need Tier 3 back up then NO – the technology that exists will not replace a gen-set for apples to apples reliability and more importantly cost.

It did get me thinking on how much of a waste of money and resources it is to have a generator and all that comes with it just for the (N) need if you lose power.  When will fuel cell technology replace gen-sets?  I believe there is a real possibility that in the near future that fuel cells could replace the gen-set , however the technology is still emerging for this to be viable. Today photovoltaic technology can replace small generator back up needs during a sunny day,  but it is the battery storage issue that limits solar power as a reliable solution.  Wind and solar power is dependent on Mother Nature to be reliable, without it you depend on batteries which are as far from green as you can get.

Like the hybrid car; good gas mileage, but you still need gas. You compare the carbon footprint of the same hybrid car to my 10 year old gasser; my car has a much smaller carbon footprint.  The mining, processing, shipment, and disposal of lithium is not friendly to the environment, but that is another blog.

If you think you need a gen-set for protection against short power outages then solar power is the green answer. But if you need a gen-set for the big N+1, then solar power is not your answer unless you have a enough money to cover all the open football fields in the NFL with PV panels, and a lot of batteries all tied to the newest fuel cell technology – then you can meet N+1 and be as faux green as you want.  As long as you advertise well,  your set-up like the hybrid car.


Ian Waldschmidt LEED AP

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