From Kansas Ranch to Air Adventure, New Mobile Microgrid Makes the Rounds

Aug. 2, 2018
Surveying the market for a mobile microgrid system for the company ranch, Faith Technologies couldn’t find an off-the-shelf solution that met its requirements. So the company built one.

Surveying the market for a mobile microgrid system for the company ranch, Faith Technologies couldn’t find an off-the-shelf solution that met its requirements. So the company built one.

*Photo provided by Faith Technologies

CEO Mike Jansen began contemplating the idea because the grid serving the company’s 1,000-acre western Kansas ranch isn’t reliable. Plus Faith Technologies is no stranger to microgrids. The planning, engineering, design and installation firm recently partnered with Schneider Electric on an advanced, stationary microgrid at the Bubolz Nature Center in Wisconsin.

Now, Faith intends to install its mobile microgrid at the company ranch, which is used for promoting team building and sustainable ranching and farming.

The microgrid consists of a 9-kW solar PV array; an intelligent, 144-kWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system and a 10-kW, methanol reformer-based, Altergy hydrogen fuel cell. Industrial Ethernet switches from Westermo provide mobile microgrid controls and remote connectivity. The entire system is housed in a 20 by eight-foot container that can be transported via flatbed trucks.

Fortuitous debut

Development of the mobile microgrid opens up a new business development path for the company. And fortunately, Faith Technologies was able to unveil it to a large audience — the more than 600,000 people who attended last week’s EAA AirVenture, an annual aviation celebration in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin.

The opportunity came about because Faith Technologies served as the main electrical contractor for the air show and exhibition.

“We wanted to show off what the mobile microgrid could do. This, along with the fact that AirVenture is a place where innovative companies display new technologies on a global platform made it the perfect place to debut the new technology,” said Pat McGettigan, vice president of pre-construction.

From its booth at the air show, Faith Technologies charged several planes and an octocopter. “That made the lives of the pilots a little easier, but it also helped us showcase this new technology at an event that attracts people from across the globe,” McGettigan said.

Faith Technologies plans to promote the mobile microgrid to prospective customers in several other market segments. That includes the Department of Defense, wireless telecommunication companies (for cell tower power) and construction companies carrying out projects at remote sites.

“The mobile microgrid can be used for many different purposes, some of which include mission-critical government buildings, military operations, telecommunications, off-the-grid locations, businesses affected by natural disasters or power outages, and any locations that can’t afford to be without power. The mobile microgrid could have changed the game in Puerto Rico,” McGettigan said.

“The mobile microgrid could have changed the game in Puerto Rico,” McGettigan said.

Lifting the lid on the mobile microgrid

The project team decided to equip the mobile microgrid with 20-kW of  generation capacity to keep its physical footprint compact while maximizing power output, McGettigan said. The team also wanted to ensure that it could be built in a factory and transported with relative ease.

Furthermore, the mobile microgrid team decided to add a methanol reformer-based fuel cell because the fuel is widely and readily available, and in a fuel cell produces a low level of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Westermo networking hardware provides a broad set of connectivity solutions for mobile microgrid control and management, McGettigan said. In addition to providing connectivity between the control components within the system, the Westermo hardware provides connections to external networks via WiFi, cellular modem, Ethernet, and fiber optic cabling.

Because its equipped with secure VPN functionality, the microgrid can be monitored remotely to ensure that it’s operating properly. That includes notification of issues regarding the system’s components. The system also has the ability to initiate remedial actions remotely or dispatch technicians to the site. “This makes the system ideal for remote locations or applications where the end user desires maintenance support with the system,” he said.

Faith Technologies’ new, mobile microgrid platform is modular, so it can be configured according to the needs of specific customers.

Total cost varies based on location and the system configuration, but in general Faith Technologies found that the total cost of owning a standard configuration unit over five years is comparable to that of a 20-kW primary diesel generator.

New ways to grow and innovate

“Faith Technologies is always looking for new ways to grow and innovate in the electrical industry and this is just one more way the company is doing that,” McGettigan said.

“We hope to be able to take this mobile microgrid and help people throughout the country and even the world by providing power through natural sources. The microgrid at Bubolz is a great demonstration on how we can create, store and manage very large power loads at one location, over 1 megawatt of power.”

In contrast, the mobile microgrid demonstrates how it’s possible to produce, store and manage smaller amounts of power in a mobile application, McGettigan explained. “This can benefit facilities with smaller loads while receiving the benefits of the larger application. Faith’s focus is to provide microgrid technology for all facilities, no matter the load size,” he said.

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About the Author

Andrew Burger

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