Laura, Sally, Delta, Zeta, and Isaias are names many Atlantic coast residents will not soon forget. The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season just kicked off on June 1st and runs through November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that there is a 60 percent chance of a busier hurricane season than the average, predicting between 13 and 20 named storms, including six to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes for 2021. But it only takes one storm to change your life and community, and 2020’s record breaking season that caused $60 to $65 billion in economic damage is a reminder of the vital importance of preparedness and having essential, proven and available tools and technology like diesel power at the ready to respond, recover and restore critical systems.
First and foremost, we often associate impacts from weather events and natural disasters with loss of electrical grid power to affected areas - if not due to storm damage, then as a pre-emptive action by utilities to minimize post-storm electrocution and fire hazards, potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of people and businesses for days or weeks. This translates quickly into the loss of conveniences of modern living - refrigeration, communications, internet access, but with broader and more serious impacts on the economic and public health fronts, as banking networks are unavailable and public drinking water and wastewater treatment systems can go offline.
Every storm reinforces the importance of emergency backup power as part of local, state, and federal emergency preparedness, response and recovery. Diesel generators are typically the technology of choice due to their reliability, rapid load-carrying capability to handle immediate and full-strength electric power within 10 seconds after failure of the primary power supply system, minimizing losses from these events. Data centers, water and sewage treatment facilities, telecommunications networks, fueling stations, emergency government command and communication centers, internet data centers and other mission-critical facilities all depend on diesel to protect public health and safety.
For their part, hospitals have long incorporated emergency backup diesel generators in their design and construction as part of their compliance with the life safety codes to ensure that the most critical hospital electrical power demands are continuously available no matter the weather or grid conditions. Many states susceptible to severe weather are now requiring retail fuel locations to install emergency backup power capabilities to ensure fuel pumping capability during grid outages to keep motorists along evacuation routes and also allow first responders to refuel in the event of sustained and widespread power outage.
Through President Biden’s Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk, the administration is focused on improving the resilience of American communities and boosting federal assets against the effects of climate change and the resulting severe weather. Some communities building out climate resilience plans are extending those considerations to emergency backup power choices as well. Diesel technology is uniquely capable of using both low-carbon renewable biofuels and conventional petroleum fuels, making it a flexible and ready solution. The largest utility in southern California relies on over 600,000 gallons of renewable diesel fuel to power its large fleet of mobile diesel generators to make sure that if needed, mission critical back up power is provided with minimal environmental impact.
Beyond stand-alone power applications, advanced technology diesel engines and equipment are now integrated into the newest distributed and sustainable energy systems such as renewable- and battery-driven microgrids. These new-generation systems give operators access to renewables that they want, with the reliability that they need coming from stand-by diesel power. City managers for Camarillo, CA determined that integrating diesel standby generators into microgrids applications installed in sites across the city were a cost effective option to provide mission critical power alongside solar and battery storage capabilities.
Keeping the power on during and after severe weather events not only saves lives, but also lessens the adverse impact, both physically and financially, of severe weather events and potential power outages. Diesel power plays a major role in making sure we are all prepared for any emergency. As we look to the promise of battery and other technologies to provide mission critical power, diesel will remain an important asset in the nation’s climate readiness, response, and resilience.
Fast Facts about Diesel Generators
- Many diesel generators are built to withstand temperatures below 0°F and built to withstand winds up to 180 miles per hour.
- Diesel generators are able to achieve full load-carrying capacity within 10 seconds of grid power outage.
- Diesel generators come in various mobile sizes and configurations and come with their own standalone fuel supply – important when other sources of power are disabled by utilities in an emergency situation.
More information about diesel generators can be found at Cummins, Caterpillar, John Deere, Isuzu, MTU, Yanmar and Volvo.