Mobile Hybrid Technology to Bring Cheaper Power to Billions

According to statistics, roughly 20 percent of the world population — some 1.3 billion people — exist without access to an electrical grid. The vast majority live in developing nations and rely on diesel generators to provide primary power. This is a costly proposition, considering the lengthy supply chain involved in getting the necessary fuel. The recent announcement of a partnership between Ideal Power and EnerDel hopes to make life both easier and more affordable for that billion-plus population.

“We think there’s an opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of delivering electricity to these underserved billions,” said Ideal Power’s President and Chief Marketing Officer Paul Bundschuh.

Ideal Power is an Austin-based power conversion technology developer that, in a strategic alliance with Indianapolis-headquartered EnerDel, recently announced they are working together on the development of a Mobile Hybrid Power System (MHPS). The system will incorporate a hybrid converter and lithium-ion batteries to result in a diesel generator that will require dramatically less fuel to operate.

The 30-kW hybrid converter, which integrates DC and AC ports to facilitate PV harvesting and energy storage, is Ideal Power’s baby; the lithium-ion batteries and proprietary control systems are EnerDel’s. Together, these technologies hope to reduce diesel fuel consumption among MHPS users by greater than 70 percent.

Bundschuh calls the partnership “a game changer” that will bring people in developing nations “much more flexibility and independence” where it comes to the high cost of acquiring diesel fuel.

Ideal Power’s 30-kW hybrid converter has won innovation awards for its ability to significantly improve efficiency while also reducing size, weight and cost. In previous efforts, EnerDel worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop MHPS units that resulted in a 70 percent reduction in diesel fuel consumption. Bundschuh is optimistic the combined efforts of Ideal Power and EnerDel will result in even greater results, with a notably short payback time for users.

“We expect a typical two-year payback period,” he said, stressing the economically attractive nature of the proposed technology. Plans are to announce the first product by year’s end, with initial units expected to see installation in early 2015.

Emphasizing the continued need for diesel generators to provide much needed electricity to “off-grid” world citizens, Bundschuh said combining energy storage with intermittent PV and a small but dispatchable conventional fossil fuel generator is “a highly attractive combination” that will reduce fossil fuel requirements and cut back on the amount of fuel consumed by end users.

“We have a lot of work to do in educating the world that this is possible,” Bundschuh said. “This is a giant market and it’s going to take a while for people to learn what this technology is capable of doing.”

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