Caterpillar Inc. recently introduced Cat® Microgrid technology, a suite of power systems that adds solar panels, energy storage, and monitoring and control systems to Caterpillar’s traditional line of power generation equipment, including Cat generator sets, switchgear, uninterruptible power supplies, and automatic transfer switches. Available through the Cat dealer network, Cat Microgrid technologies can be purchased as turnkey installations or design-to-order solutions. Ranging from 10 kW to 100 MW, units can be added in a modular fashion to create systems customized for a variety of power needs.
Caterpillar has proven the real-world value of its microgrid technology by commissioning a system at the company’s Tucson Proving Ground in Arizona. In March 2016, facility managers installed 500 kW of photovoltaic solar power along with 500 kW of short-term energy storage in the form of batteries and ultracapacitors to supplement power that previously had been supplied solely by three C15 410-kW diesel generator sets. The integrated system is expected to reduce fuel consumption by approximately 33%.
In a hybrid microgrid, renewable sources of energy can account for any percentage of the load depending on conditions. Excess energy produced by renewables is stored for stabilization as well as for use during unfavorable conditions, such as cloudy days and at night. Generator sets supplement the system by powering the microgrid when energy from other sources is unavailable.
Cat Microgrid applications can include any combination of the following elements:
- thin-film solar modules, which capture more energy, especially in high-temperature, high humidity, desert, and coastal climates;
- energy storage such as ultracapacitors, lithium-ion, or rechargeable metal-air storage that provides the economical and advanced energy storage with controls and monitoring down to the cell level;
- Cat generator sets powered by diesel, heavy fuel oil (HFO), natural gas, biogas, or dual fuel, offering high power density, high-part load efficiencies, and the capability to follow loads; and
- the Cat Microgrid Master Controller to monitor and optimize power usage in the microgrid.
To support the development of the Cat Microgrid technologies over the past year, Caterpillar has invested in Fluidic Energy for energy storage, signed a strategic alliance with First Solar for an integrated photovoltaic (PV) solar solution, and made an equity investment in Powerhive, an energy solutions provider for emerging markets.