Wind/Solar combo … a business case being made?

A key challenge for wind and solar systems is intermittency. The wind isn’t always blowing and the sun isn’t always shining.  But, in many parts of the world, this presents an opportunity for complementary systems — as the wind is often blowing when the sun is not at peak and vice versa.  Combining these systems can enable higher probabilities of providing year-round power while (potentially) requiring lower storage.

 Motorola is going to be testing this combination as an alternative to diesel generation for off-grid sites. 

The diesel-free power system is been positioned as a green alternative to using fuel generators when a main grid connection is not available or it will take months or years to connect. Motorola says the technology has applications in both the developed and developing world. Western operators might be interested in the technology as a way of reducing their carbon emissions and of reducing operational costs, especially as electricity prices are expected to rise between 30-40 per cent over coming years.

Wind and solar powered stations require less maintenance than a diesel driven generator which generally requires, at a minimum, a monthly visit for refueling. Thomas Quirke, director of marketing at Motorola, said that diesel power is expensive, especially in cases where it needs to be delivered to cell sites without road access, and often gets siphoned off. “Diesel fuel supplies are heavily prone to theft. Thieves will even take diesel generators, given the chance,”

And, here is a classic “cost to buy” versus “cost to own” equation.  “Diesel generators remain cheaper to install but this is offset by higher operating expenses.”

We might just see Africa sprinkled with solar/wind combination systems supporting the proliferation of cell phones throughout the continent. 

This combo application, however, is far from limited to just cell phones. Skybuilt Power has a mobile power station, that combines wind and solar power in a container.  The US military is buying some of these and deploying them to bases in Iraq.


Skybuilt Power


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