Diesel generators (DGs) are respected across the world for their durability, portability, and simplicity. Their Achilles heel has always been their tendency for both noise and air pollution. Releasing nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM) and non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) into the air. Nevertheless, DG operators throughout the globe have historically seen the machines’ merits as outweighing the risks.
Ultimately, the future of diesel generators is intimately related to the greater argument between the demands of industrialization vs the requirements of the planet. While that conflict is being conducted largely between the governments of the globe and their populations. The war over diesel generators is playing out between governments and DG producers in the shape of ever-stricter rules on the technology.
These are incredibly complicated concerns; nevertheless, by peering into the future and analyzing a few of the important environmental, political, and industrial developments. Influencing diesel generators now, we may at least make an informed estimate about what the future holds for them.
Current Diesel Generator Predictions
As we pointed out in a previous article, diesel generator sales are trending up over the near-term. They’re predicted to grow steadily to more than $21 billion in the U.S. alone by 2022, up from $12.6 billion in 2014. This is despite substantial obstacles, including low commodity prices that lower demand in commodity-dependent emerging nations. As well as falling costs of rival energy sources that are more ecologically friendly.
That is an astounding degree of growth by any standard, and the foreign statistics are anticipated to outpace domestic growth. In December 2013, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that emerging nations will account for 65 percent of world energy usage by 2040. Since they will witness the highest population increase. As the most effective type of backup power, DGs are prepared to play a vital part in that energy scenario.
Incidentally, China–itself officially a developing nation, according to the World Trade Organization–is now the world’s top producer of carbon emissions. But it also produces 25 percent of its energy from renewables. Many pundits have pointed out that as a major diesel genset market.
DGs And Sustainability
Yet practically every nation in the world, including China, knows that sustainable energy generation is the future. And diesel generators have already begun to reflect changing environmental protection legislation. And changing customer preferences through developments in diesel technology.
Hybridized versions of diesel generators is one fast-growing section of the industry. In which diesel engines are paired with batteries, natural gas, solar panels or other renewables. In these systems, the engine only kicks on to charge the battery or manage peak demands. These improvements optimize efficiency and minimize run durations, enabling reduction of emissions of upwards of 80 percent . There are also early data that adding hydrogen infusion to diesel engines might result in lower fuel usage and up to 90 percent less NOx emitted.
While these adjustments limit the usage of diesel, they don’t eliminate fossil fuels totally. Solutions like the restaurant waste oil-eating Vegawatt have been operational for at least a decade. But remain a limited section of the industry at best because of their specific demands and typically expensive up-front expenses.
Diesel Gensets Losing Ground To Renewables
Even with improvements, DGs may not be green enough to rescue them in the perspective of some customers. Thus, some of those seeking for energy sources are skipping over the latest diesel genset technology and opting for renewable energy.
For example, a recent two-week trial at a railway station in South Wales integrated 97 percent solar and battery electricity. And in a recent announcement of a breakthrough in generating electricity using ammonia in alkaline fuel cells. UK-based AFC Energy made a point of comparing their technology with the toxic fumes given off by DGs at many construction sites.
But the smaller, portable generator industry (generators up to around 20 kW) is susceptible as customers get acclimated to generators at places that are quieter and maintain better air quality. So although bigger, backup and emergency DGs that deliver electricity to buildings and heavy machinery are more severely regulated. It may be entirely market factors that determine the future of mobile generators.
Diesel gensets are presently the most dependable alternative for temporary or transportable electricity due to its modular, scalable and weather independent functioning. Following several years of instability and lower demand caused by declining commodity prices, 2017 & 2018 has witnessed a recovery to profitability for the majority of manufactures and rental providers, with instances highlighted in the table below. Despite this outstanding performance more stricter emission laws, environmental concerns and unpredictable fuel prices might now create a compelling argument for genset hybridisation with renewable technology. IDTechEx’s forthcoming research ‘Diesel Generator Set Future Developments and Alternative Technologies 2019-2029’. Analyses the future market in the light of the expanding usage of natural gas gensets as well as the different alternative low/zero emission technologies that are available.
With their cheap up-front costs and round the clock power availability, it is easy to understand why diesel gensets have grown within industries such as mining, oil & gas, telecoms and military. Recently the decreasing costs of solar implies that replacing at least a fraction of established genset capacity with solar panels and/or battery storage systems. Can have payback times as low as 2-3 years. In this paper the increased future demand for diesel gensets is simulated. Alongside the market penetration of other power producing technologies. Such as solar, wind and fuel cells. Profiles and interviews with prominent genset manufacturers and renewable technology developers are provided as well as market segmentation by region and genset size.
It is commonly agreed that there is a rising energy supply – demand imbalance globally, which some predict will be approximately 100GW by 2020. The analysis believes that this will provide advantageous conditions in the short term for diesel genset utilization. Which will see the market value continue to rise, but not necessarily to pre-2014 levels. In the medium to longer term, a more complicated mix of market variables will eventually decide installed capacity globally. For more information and more extensive analysis please refer to the future publication.