According to Jim Bunsey, hydrogen may be the fuel of the future, but propane is the fuel of today.
Bunsey, the director of communications and business development for the Propane Energy Resource Council (PERC), recently sat down with Kevin Normandeau, co-founder and publisher of Microgrid Knowledge, to explain why he sees propane and microgrids as a great fit.
Propane is perhaps best known as an energy source for rural communities that lack grid-connected utilities. But it burns 99% cleaner than diesel, according to Bunsey, and that’s why he sees considerably broader applications for propane than just powering rural homes and businesses.
Better stewards of the Earth
“It's not going to be one solution for the energy crisis,” Bunsey said, adding that it's going to take new technologies and multiple sources of energy to reduce carbon emissions.
According to Bunsey, clean burning propane emits less particulate matter than diesel and fits in with microgrids because it complements renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydro, and “helps us get to the end goal.”
Bunsey said that PERC has conducted studies and published white papers with hard data showing how switching from diesel to propane is better for the environment. He directed viewers to the organization’s website, Propane.com, to see those materials.
He noted that the fuel source doesn’t contaminate soil or groundwater if it leaks, and that it has a lower carbon intensity than the current electric grid.
These factors all mean propane can help people meet the energy goals on their path to zero, Bunsey said.
Propane is a clean alternative that’s ready today
Propane is a clean alternative to diesel that’s primed and ready to go today, Bunsey reported. The industry produces 30 billion gallons of propane each year, two-thirds of which is exported. “We're ready to offset 20 billion gallons of the diesel with the product that we have today,” he said.
Plus, the propane infrastructure is already in place across the United States, he said.
“This isn't something that's going to happen five, 10 years down the road,” Bunsey added. “I'm able to help people meet their energy goals right now with the product that's domestically made.”
Lower operating costs
Bunsey acknowledged that installation costs for diesel generators are more affordable than propane generation but noted that those costs are typically offset by propane’s lower cost of ownership.
“You don't have to stir the tanks. You don't have to clean the product. Propane has an indefinite shelf life,” he said.
Propane generation also has a short payback period at just one to two years, according to Bunsey.
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