Breakthrough solar system outperforms military-grade diesel generator

Carbon-based battery was cheaper and more reliable during power outages

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 13 November 2023 11:15 GMT
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Solar panels combined with next-generation batteries now outperform military-grade diesel generators, according to new analysis.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that the novel clean energy solution was both cheaper and more reliable than its fossil fuel-powered counterpart.

Tests of the two systems were carried out in accordance with the US Department of Defense’s requirements to sustain critical electric loads during a power outage over a 14-day period.

The solar systems proved to have a higher resilience and lower cost compared to the diesel-based systems that are currently used, while also being less vulnerable to interruptions in the diesel supply.

The researchers also highlighted the net present value (NPV) of the solar storage system, meaning it pays for itself in the long term.

“The diesel-fuel-free LDES system outperforms the traditional diesel-based system and provides a large net saving that can be used to pursue third-party financing,” the researchers noted.

“The continued rapid decline in photovoltaic (PV) costs allows for utility-scale PV to be economically attractive at many locations. These declines are expected to continue, which will further increase the positive NPV in the future.”

The tests were performed on three separate military bases, using an innovative carbon-based battery rather than the more expensive lithium-ion batteries that are typically found in such renewable energy storage systems.

The batteries tested in the experiments were Antora Energy’s battery energy storage system (BESS), which the researchers warned were not yet ready for full-scale deployment. The results of the study, however, mean decision makers are already anticipating their roll out.

Michael McGhee, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, described the new system as “the most likely way to easily and simply generate power without the need for off-base supply chains”.

The results of the research were published in a study, titled ‘Long-duration energy storage: resiliency for military installations’.

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