Energy is one of the main pillars upon which all economic and social activities revolve, but maintaining the current energy system in the long term is impossible. The shift to another model based on renewable sources rather than fossil fuels, where the key is distributed generation, energy efficiency, and digitization, is crucial in an unstoppable process.
In this new scenario, energy transition becomes not just a solution but a necessity—environmental, social, and economic—towards low-carbon production, distribution, and consumption systems.
The transition seeks to create a future energy network composed of various clean and sustainable energy sources that work together to enhance efficiency and reliability of the systems. However, an energy mix with these characteristics is not yet viable. We are not only still unable to meet 100% of energy demand with renewables, but there are also significant limitations in storing large amounts of energy. Other factors must be considered as well: not all locations have access to renewable energy sources, and even where they do, there is the issue of their availability.
The peak production cycles of these energy sources do not always align with peak demand, and unlike fossil fuel generation, this production is not adjustable unless we introduce storage technologies
Their ability to provide a quick response to load variations makes them an optimal storage alternative.
Fossil and Renewable Energies Together?
This leads us to the fact that in the short and medium term, the trend is to combine fossil and renewable energies, aiming to eliminate the negative aspects of each when used individually while gradually reducing reliance on fossil resources. This scenario favors the use of generator sets.
- First, their installation allows access to high-quality energy in remote areas where there is no conventional grid or access to renewable energy sources.
- When integrated into an energy mix involving clean sources, their characteristics enhance system efficiency and reliability, resulting in lower operating costs.
- Unlike renewables, generator sets do not rely on often unpredictable natural conditions, providing a solid solution to their instability.
- Their ability to provide a quick response to load variations makes them an optimal storage alternative.
- Thanks to integrated intelligent management systems, their operation can be planned based on specific conditions and timeframes, allowing anticipation of potential adverse situations.
Generator Sets will play a crucial role in the coming years, supporting the necessary transformation of the electrical system while increasing the reliability, security, and efficiency of the grids.
However, they also have a significant disadvantage that cannot be ignored: diesel and its environmental impact. While the generator set sector is not the most polluting, forward-thinking and innovative companies are exploring ways to transition to cleaner operation with lower emissions.
Unlike renewables, generator sets do not rely on often unpredictable natural conditions.
HVO: Beyond Diesel
One promising alternative is HVO or renewable diesel. Produced from various vegetable and non-vegetable raw materials, such as used vegetable cooking oil or animal fat residues, HVO overcomes many of the issues associated with traditional biofuels like biodiesel.
HVO can be used as the only fuel without the need for blending with fossil diesel or engine modifications. Also, its storage does not require specific planning since it is not prone to degradation, making it storable in a simple plastic or metal tank. Most importantly, when produced from used cooking oils, it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% compared to fossil diesel.
HVO can be used as the only fuel without the need to mix it with fossil diesel or make modifications to engines.
Hydrogen Generator Sets
In the long term, also gaining attention are the hydrogen-fuelled generator sets. Although it is not expected that their use will be widespread within the next ten years, primarily due to the high associated costs, current studies show highly optimistic results.
Unlike conventional options, hydrogen groups also enable a 70% to 95% reduction in emissions, which would significantly contribute to achieving net-zero goals. Tests conducted with these groups indicate that this will not be their only advantage: some studies suggest that the engine power increases of up to 20% and the group’s lifespan increases.
However, this technology is still not feasible on a large scale, mainly due to costs. For example, when compared to HVO, the cost per kW of power for a hydrogen group is currently between 9 and 10 times higher than an equivalent unit powered by HVO.
Within the current transitional paradigm, thanks to their characteristics and emerging sustainable technologies, the generator set sector still has a long journey ahead.