Diesel-Powered Emergency Backup Generators Play a Vital Role during Hurricane SandyPublished on November 2, 2012
As communities throughout the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic continue to deal with the devastating winds and flooding from Hurricane Sandy, diesel-powered emergency backup generators are working to provide power to hospitals, nuclear power plants, emergency response centers, and other critical facilities.
"The devastation from Hurricane Sandy has been unprecedented in many areas of the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic region," said Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum. "A vital asset in the recovery mission continues to be the emergency power provided from diesel-powered back-up generators.
"Emergency management officials and local leaders from impacted areas are reporting how their diesel generators are providing emergency power for hospitals, nuclear power plants, emergency shelters, and 911 response centers. With their self-contained fuel supply, rapid response time, and strength in electrical load-carrying capacity, diesel generators are the technology of choice for emergency back-up power.
"What we are learning today is how diesel generators kept the lights and essential power on during the storm as well as are continuing to provide vital electrical power to the region by helping power data centers, cell towers, hotels, individual businesses, and aiding the restoration of the financial district and even the New York Stock Exchange.
"Diesel-powered generators can and do save lives during a weather or power crisis," Schaeffer said.
(See "Diesel: The Lifeblood of the Recovery Effort" – Data Center Knowledge, Oct. 31, 2012)
Proper Placement and Siting of Generators Is Important
"From hospitals to water treatment facilities or airport control towers, every second counts when the power fails," Schaeffer said. "Fortunately, within 10 seconds of a power failure, diesel-powered backup generators go to work. That's why diesel is a silent yet reliable partner in virtually every hospital across the country. No other energy source provides full-strength backup power within seconds of a failure by the primary electricity grid.
"Diesel power is also being deployed around the region today powering massive portable water pumps to evacuate flooding in subway systems, apartment buildings and key underground infrastructure. Pumping systems - both portable and fixed – with diesel back-ups are in place in thousands of cities throughout the country to prevent flooding, and to keep drinking water treatment systems providing safe drinking water when the electrical power goes out.
Emergency Responders Rely on Diesel Power for Ambulances and Communications Systems
"Back up emergency diesel generators are the technology of choice and are in place at America's airports and critical telecommunication centers. With a self-contained fuel supply, these diesel-powered units aren't vulnerable to utility service interruptions such as the emergency shut-off of natural gas pipelines that are common safety procedures in natural disasters.
"Airport Radar and telecommunications systems have their own back-up power systems and the majority depends on diesel emergency generators to maintain passenger safety and security during storm-related power interruptions of a few seconds or a few days," Schaeffer said.
Diesel-powered generators have proven to be the most reliable, durable, and economical source of emergency power. In almost all instances, diesel generators are the only source of power generation that meets federal and state requirements of 10-second start-up and electrical load-carrying capacity. Diesel powered units are typically much larger than the portable gasoline powered generators available at local home supply stores.
Tips and Advice for Diesel Generator Use
Assess the risk: Identifying your facility's critical loads is an important first step. Assign a cost to the risks associated with utility power interruptions, production losses and downtime. Frequent outages of a few seconds, a few minutes or more can often disrupt production lines and have significant cost implications to businesses. While other back-up electrical supply alternatives may exist, they can often take longer to engage and have shorter supply capabilities, have higher costs, lower reliability or no reasonable refueling options during an event.
Determine Needs, Properly permit, locate and Install a standby generator: Work with qualified diesel engine and equipment and generator dealers to properly spec, locate and install a unit. Be sure that the units are properly sized to handle vital loads and installed by certified electricians and power experts and in accordance with all state and local fire and environmental operating codes.
Have sufficient fuel storage: Diesel fuel's energy density and the engine's high efficiency allow for smaller fuel storage facilities compared to other fuels, which provides a cost savings to owners. Still, it is important to make sure that you have sufficient fuel storage capacity on-site for an extended outage of several days, and contingencies for refueling during a serious weather or other event in the event of extended outages.
Assure Proper Use, Readiness and Maintenance: As required by electrical and safety codes, standby generators should be "exercised" periodically (typically on a weekly basis) to ensure they will operate as designed in the event of an emergency. Proper maintenance and servicing are key to reliability.
Contract rental power: If installing your own standby generation is not feasible for your business, you might consider contracting with a reliable firm to reserve rental generator power for use in the event of an extended outage.