Interest in hybrid energy generation is high, says generator manufacturer HIMOINSA Southern Africa business development director Matthew Bell.
Speaking to Engineering News Online on the sidelines of the Africa Energy Forum, in Mauritius, last week, he noted, however, that for projects to come to fruition, there are still some challenges, and also opportunities for vertically integrated original equipment manufacturers, such as HIMOINSA, in terms of establishing an effective integrated solution.
The challenges are owing to effectively having four components of a good hybrid system – solar, grid capacity, battery and the generator (thermal energy), but the “brains” to it all is an integrated control system.
Such a system synchronises the different energy sources and can use the best one according to time of day or year. “This approach ensures that the most cost-effective energy supply is selected, compared to utility tariff rates which are increased during peak hours and winter periods,” notes Bell.
The company’s Master Control System, launched in 2016, allows for one port of call for assistance, should there be a challenge around one component of a hybrid system using one of its generators.
The Master Control System has since its launch made major strides in the telecommunications sector – where significant interest for hybrid generation lies, says Bell.
“Where there are base stations or telecoms masts, particularly in remote parts of Africa, it requires a generator to run 24/7, which can be expensive to run – fuel-wise and the cost of servicing and maintaining the units,” he explains.
Bell adds that the North Africa region and the Dominican Republic are important customers for hybrid generation systems.
Moreover, Bell believes hybrid generation could make a significant impact in more African countries, since there are many towns and industrial areas that are not connected to a grid.
The company’s continuous research and development programme and technology developments that it has launched and/or already has in operation for hybrid solutions (designed specifically for the telecom market), are now being leveraged for other applications, such as on or off-grid micro and mini-grid solutions.
“Some industrial users are located at the end of transmission lines and, consequently, have unreliable power supply, since fluctuations in voltage and frequency trips the power supply.”
Having numerous hybrids along the utility network strengthens the grid and reduces bottlenecks and voltage fluctuations.
Total off-grid solutions also work where a hybrid solution is used to provide an alternative power source to the traditional transmission line and utility connection solution. With the latest technology developments in hybrid solutions, this provides a cost-effective and reliable power supply for remote and rural businesses and communities in Africa.
Bell highlights that a traditional diesel genset would need to run all day and, therefore, can be expensive and emits carbon dioxide, but having hybrid solar and battery components, it effectively offsets the time that diesel is required by up to 80%.
The diesel is the last energy source to kick in if the battery or solar component is inefficient or unavailable at any time.
Meanwhile, HIMOINSA also offers its C2Cloud system, which is a remote monitoring system that uses a SIM card installed on the generator to provide visibility of the oil pressure, battery charging, fuel levels and other critical information about the state of the generator at any given time.
The C2Cloud system enables remote visibility and control of the generator from the customer’s mobile phone, with preventative alarms set-up to inform the customer if an issue can be foreseen with the battery level, for example.
“Temperature of batteries is important to consider and needs constant monitoring for effective energy storage. Air-conditioning systems are also built into the company’s hybrid designed gensets to regulate temperature,” Bell explains.
The hybrid gensets use a variable speed engine, rather than a traditional fixed-speed engine. With hybrid applications, where demand and load-profiles vary greatly throughout the day and night, this can cause fuel efficiency and operational challenges compared to fixed speed generators.
“Our variable speed engine matches low demand with the output of the engine and the benefits include a 20% improvement in fuel consumption, compared with a hybrid fixed-speed generator and and a 40% saving compared with a standard fixed-speed generator, whilst also reducing cylinder head glazing as the engine can run at a low load factor without having operational issues.”
Bell concludes that total cost of ownership is a core value amongst HIMOINSA’s manufacturing and customer service objectives. “We strive to produce the most cost-effective solution over the lifespan of the product’s application, providing our customers with high-quality and reliable power generation equipment and services.”