The Storm After The Storm

One of the most common outcomes of a natural disaster is power loss. Whether it is a blizzard in the middle of winter, a strong spring storm turned tornado, or a powerful hurricane, access to power through a severe storm or disaster is paramount to the recovery process. It is not only homeowners who face the struggles of power loss during these extreme situations, but hospitals, shelters, gas stations, cell phone companies, and more. Generators are often the only source of backup in the cases of power loss, but generators have their drawbacks. Generators are large, noisy, and they require fuel such as gasoline or diesel that needs to be pumped. In situations of power loss, these liquid fuels may not be available (if gas stations are also experiencing power loss) to power the generators.

Superstorm Sandy exposed the vulnerability of the central power grid by knocking out power to much of the East Coast and Caribbean—hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, police stations, and cell phone towers were without power for days. Without the ability to get the required fuel, backup generators also failed. 2012 highlighted a problem: central power grid instability and failure of fuel logistics during natural disasters.

While central power grids have been shown time and again to fail during disasters, microgrids run by natural gas and fuel cell technology have been seen to succeed. The microgrid combines intelligence with ecofriendly power generation, wind, solar and fuel cells. The microgrid can determine the most efficient power source to use at a given time—if it is a windy, sunny day, then the microgrid will use those ecofriendly sources for power, but if those source are not viable, the fuel cell will be dispatched to provide energy, cleanly, quietly and efficiently.

Fuel cells can operate efficiently at partial or total power, depending on the need. Fuel cells also have long run times, require less fuel, and utilize readily available fuels (propane and natural gas). For example, in the case of a power outage, a fuel cell can be run off of propane, a common fuel found in most homes for grilling. The low, ecofriendly fuel emissions and quiet operation are also better for the people near the fuel cell. Many groceries, hospitals, and shelters across the nation have implemented fuel cells as part of their power planning process to ensure a continuous flow of power, even during the worst of circumstances. These advantages have also appealed to the government, which is also investing in and implementing fuel cell technology.

If you’d like to learn more about how the WATT Imperium™ fuel cell can play an integral role in microgrid and mobile grid applications, please contact us today.