Wind and solar energy can displace a large amount of the greenhouse gas emissions from diesel generators, according to a new analysis.
WASHINGTON, DC – Diesel generators in the United States emit 293,000 tons of nitrogen oxide, similar to the emissions from all power plants in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey combined, according to “Blending Wind & Solar into the Diesel Generator Market,” released by REPP-CREST. Environmental regulations for diesel generators are weak, and the case is strong for programs and market strategies to advance zero-emission technologies as a pollution control strategy. “Diesel generators are a major source of air pollution in the United States, and they are growing in capacity every year,” says author Virinder Singh. “Now is an ideal time for regulators and industry to pursue strategies to advance wind and solar as clean, economic alternatives to dirty diesel.” In addition to NOx emissions, diesel generators also released 40 percent more carbon dioxide ) than all power plants in New Jersey combined. In 1996, the U.S. had 102,000 MW of diesel generator capacity, with an annual growth rate of 1.7 percent that will result in 127,500 MW of capacity by 2010, releasing 371,000 tons of NOx emissions and 16.7 million tons of CO2. The growth may be even higher due to the recent dependability crisis in California. The report examines the power market in Alaska, where diesel generators power village mini-grids and where wind-diesel hybrids are a proven application that is appropriate for the unique conditions of remote villages in that state. It also examines the back-up power market, especially for smaller commercial and residential establishments, which is dominated by diesel generators and where solar PV offers a market-ready option to provide cleaner back-up power. “If regulators want to look beyond traditional controls to address the skyrocketing population of generators, then zero-emission, no-fuel technologies such as wind and solar offer a key control strategy for local air quality, global warming, water quality, and occupational health,” it says. “One way to bring wind and solar to the fore in the regulation arena is for federal and state agencies to adopt air standards that treat multiple environmental problems as holistically as is feasible. Another way is for environmental agencies, other government partners, and the wind and solar industry to craft a variety of measures the address diverse market barriers.” “Programs to advance wind and solar would fit well with federal programs such as Energy Star that bring energy efficiency technologies to the marketplace due to their many economic and environmental benefits,” it explains. “Crafting effective approaches to advance wind and solar within the existing diesel generator market require an intimate knowledge of the diesel and renewable energy industries.” Wind-diesel hybrids are a feasible, proven power source for Alaska’s 175 remote villages, which are often low-income communities that are exposed to diesel fuel price volatility, frequent fuel spills, and high operations and maintenance costs for transporting diesel fuel and maintaining diesel bulk storage tanks. Most villages require some form of state or federal subsidy, but wind offers a way to reduce such costs and harness a plentiful Alaskan energy resource. Diesel equipment firms should diversify by retrofitting diesel generators with wind power, concludes the report, and governments should tailor financing to wind power rather than to diesel power. Governments and the wind industry should train local citizens to install and maintain wind-diesel systems. In the back-up market, state environmental agencies should jump-start replacement efforts with a multi-year incentive program and the PV industry should align itself more closely with the energy-services industry, and vice versa. Solar PV should be better integrated into the federal Energy Star program, and the PV industry should develop a resale market and make portable systems a priority. It also recommends that state energy funds should share costs with environmental agencies and the PV industry to catalyze diesel generator replacement and PV product development.