A number of technologies are available for facilities to generate their own energy onsite. For small to medium scale businesses, these include:
- Solar Photovoltaics (PV): solar panels which are now almost ubiquitous around the Australian suburbs, great because the solar resource is very predictable by location without needing site specific monitoring data before making an investment decision. Solar PV also benefits significantly from having no moving parts, minimising the requirement for ongoing maintenance.
- Micro wind: either vertical axis or horizontal axis turbines. Great idea but not generally as practical as solar PV due to the requirement to test local wind conditions upfront over a reasonable period of time, plus the issues around cost of maintenance – particularly bearings – for small scale turbines. Wind turbines are usually best at big scale.
- Gas fired cogeneration or trigeneration. Cogeneration refers to capture of waste heat from a gas engine or turbine and use of that heat for process or building heating. Trigeneration refers to use of some of the waste heat to create cooling, usually through an absorption chiller.
- Biogas: capture of combustible gases, predominantly methane, from the breakdown of organic materials such as sewage, green waste, crop waste, and the combustion of the gases in a gas engine or turbine, sometimes with cogeneration also included.
Efficient Initiatives has extensive experience with solar PV and good experience with wind and cogeneration. As discussed in our blog article on PV selection there are plenty of traps when designing an appropriate PV system for a customer.
We also strongly recommend setting up an ongoing monitoring and reporting system for any energy generation that you install. It’s your job to run your business and facility – not to be keeping an eye on your solar panels and inverter … and on the possums, birds, neighbours trees and buildings which may cause your system’s output to reduce over time.