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Commercial Generators

The Role of Commercial Generators

Commercial generators have traditionally only been bought by commercial users where the nature of their business demanded an uninterrupted supply of electrical power such as hospitals and server farms, for instance. This has changed as Eskom struggles to up its generation capacity and improve its supply reliability. Most commercial entities are being forced to consider the installation of commercial generators to offset the negative effects of loadshedding and power interruptions due to technical faults.

The recent response from the government to the current energy crisis in South Africa has been to allow embedded generation projects of up to a maximum of 100 MW to be built without a licence. This seems to be a large step in the right direction if seen in the light of the previous threshold of one megawatt per plant not requiring a license.

The reality is that this is too little too late, and the new dispensation was clearly a knee-jerk reaction to the crisis and not properly thought through for all eventualities. Dealing with the main problem of Eskom’s lack of generation capacity during peak periods and the underlying causes will require a more holistic approach. The crisis cannot be solved by the addition of more renewable energy alone.


The Advantages of Commercial Generators

The rapid growth in demand for commercial generators in South Africa is easy to explain against the background of our failing utility and ongoing power outages, whether scheduled or due to technical problems. Schedule 6 loadshedding costs South African businesses an estimated R 4 billion per day. The pressure is on commercial and industrial entities to provide backup power to reduce losses.

One of the less capital-intensive solutions to this problem is the installation of a diesel-powered generator. Commercial generators can also be installed relatively rapidly. Diesel generators for commercial applications are a mature technology that is well-understood. Renewable energy systems are comparatively new alternatives that are only now becoming more mainstream.

Diesel gensets currently offer one of the best grid backup solutions for larger commercial and industrial users. They can be installed and brought online rapidly minimising production losses and allowing for the resumption of normal operations with minimal delay. They offer continuous reliable power with the capability of starting and running heavy loads and large electric motors.

How Commercial Generators Differ from Residential Generators

Generators used as backup or standby power for the average home are generally far smaller, more portable, and can only handle the light or moderate loads required by a household. They are generally not designed for continuous or extended running and must often be manually started once the grid falls away.

Commercial generators, on the other hand, are designed to power an entire commercial site during grid power outages. They also need to run continuously, for extended periods, or at least until the grid power is restored.

They often include automatic start-up when they sense that the grid has failed, ensuring little to no time in which computers and other critical equipment will stop running. Commercial generators usually include automatic voltage regulators, which prevent surges and dips in power that may damage equipment.


Commercial Generators versus Renewable Energy

Electrical energy must be consumed on demand and renewable resources are intermittent by nature. Intermittency refers to the fact that most renewables have off periods. There is no sun at night and even the windiest regions experience calm spells. Renewables can therefore not replace coal or nuclear power entirely unless expensive, utility-scale batteries are employed.

More crucially, grid stability improves with the more inertia the grid has. Simply put, the more power stations you have with large, heavy turbines and other equipment spinning at high revolutions, the better they can handle loads put on them without slowing down. Inertia comes from rotating mass. Solar inverters, for example, have no rotating mass at all.

Even though solar and wind generation has been steadily declining in cost year after year, becoming more cost-effective alternatives to grid and generator power, the need for costly battery storage with a relatively short life expectancy is still a limitation. Diesel-powered gensets remain an attractive backup power solution for many commercial entities especially when the initial capital cost of a renewable energy plant is factored in. Commercial generators of similar capacity to an equivalent solar plant, for instance, will cost significantly less to purchase. Generators have higher running and maintenance costs than renewables do which need to be considered. The reality is that an integrated blend of technologies will probably deliver the best solution.


Sizing Industrial Diesel Generators

Before purchasing commercial generators, a careful assessment of the size unit required needs to be made. Selecting a unit that is too large will cost unnecessarily more and may present technical problems after purchase. It is a misconception that a genset with more than enough capacity than required is acceptable or even desirable. Simply purchasing the biggest unit you can afford is not good practice. An industrial diesel generator that is too large for the application will be inefficient using far more diesel than needed. Generators should ideally be run at about 75% of their rated capacity. At this load point, the engine will run in the correct thermal range increasing its life span and reducing maintenance.  Running diesel engines on a less than 30% load for extended periods is generally bad for them.

The total power requirement as well as the type of equipment being powered must be established. an industrial plant with multiple high-capacity electric motors or compressors needs careful sizing and is a complex electrical engineering exercise.


Enlist True Expertise with PacB Power Solutions

A web search for ‘commercial generators Gauteng’ produces about 576 000 results, clearly demonstrating the high demand for generators. Unfortunately, this attracts a host of entrepreneurs into the industry in search of quick returns. Many of these are relatively new to the generator industry and may lack the experience to provide truly informed advice.

PacB Power Solutions is a long-established power systems integrator and manufacturer of industrial and commercial generators We are renowned in the industry as a manufacturer of superior-quality, large-capacity generators. When specifying commercial generators, significant technical know-how and experience are essential for purchasing and properly installing the optimum solution. PacB will assist with the sizing, design and manufacture of any type of power provision system based on industrial and commercial generators including the control systems and the balance of system components. We can design and manufacture Synchronous PLC-controlled panels for multi-station generator supply over a comprehensive range of system sizes and voltages, including systems larger than 1000 kVA in size. Our renewable energy division has a large portfolio of integrated generator and renewable energy plants. Save yourself the trouble of sifting through 576 000 listings, and engage with the experts at PacB.


Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.

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