Replacing Diesel Generators with Renewables and Hydrogen

Harnyss Oasis

Clean hydrogen is produced from water and renewable energy through electrolysis. The process requires electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, that have no greenhouse gas emissions.

Hydrogen can be used for fuel, either in an internal combustion engine or by producing electricity in a fuel cell to power an electric powertrain or supply off-grid systems with power.

Diesel generators have been used for remote and backup power for decades, and have a global installed base estimated at around 36 to 47 GW (not specific to data centers). From 2020 to 2027, they’re forecasted to have a 5-8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). While being a staple source of power, diesel power generation has several drawbacks that make it increasingly unpopular in today's world.

From an ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) perspective, diesel power generation is considered a major contributor to air pollution and carbon emissions, which can have adverse effects on both human health and the environment. Furthermore, it goes against decarbonization initiatives as countries aim to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Many countries and U.S. states such as California, have strict emissions requirements that discourage the deployment of diesel generators. Hence, there is growing interest in sustainable alternatives to diesel generators.

Another drawback of diesel power generation is the high cost of repairs and maintenance, which can make it uneconomical in the long run. Diesel generators are complex machines with many moving parts, and they require regular maintenance to ensure they operate efficiently. The fuel costs of diesel generators are also a significant factor as diesel is typically more expensive than other fuel sources, and the cost is further compounded by transportation and storage costs.

In recent years, diesel powered electricity's drawbacks have become increasingly apparent. The environmental impact, high repair and maintenance costs, and high fuel costs make it increasingly unattractive, particularly as the world moves towards cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy generation. Considering the typical lifetime of backup generators is 20+ years, there is an urgency to find a suitable sustainable replacement.

Environmental impacts

Air quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are key environmental impact metrics that are evaluated by organizations that have formalized their decarbonization and ESG commitments. Remote locations such as island communities or rural operations rely on diesel for their primary power. Urban and populated regions have regulations that impose a limit on diesel generation operating hours. As a result, diesel generators typically operate only when providing backup power for facilities or when undergoing scheduled maintenance tests.


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