Vancouver-based company Portable Electric is revolutionizing mobile power generation with their range of portable, renewable-energy power stations called VOLTstacks.
These replace noisy, carbon-emitting gas and diesel generators with silent and emission-free power, supplemented by mini solar panels and lithium ion battery banks that recharge in a matter of a few hours.
VOLTstack power stations are available in three standard sizes. The compact 190-pound, 2k unit delivers 250 watts of continuous power for 10 hours. The 5k unit weighs in at 330 pounds, is just a few inches taller, and delivers 500 watts of continuous power for 10 hours. Both are capable of being recharged from a 120-volt wall outlet in as little time as 2.5 hours, with solar or wind recharge capability as well.
The trailer-mounted 20k VOLTstack weighs 5,000 pounds and can provide several days of continuous power supply and can be enlarged or customized to suit individual customer requirements. This unit can be recharged using EV Chargers or through the grid itself with a 50 amp tie in. Charge time is approximately six hours. The power draw can be customized in combinations of standard cording and three-phase cable.
Portable Electric was founded in December 2015. Two years later, it began building and renting their equipment to film production companies and special event organizers. Marketing efforts aimed at the construction industry are more recent but are quickly gaining momentum. This month, the company announced a distribution agreement with Toyota Tsusho Canada Inc., giving VOLTstack exposure to the growing number of companies interested in technical solutions to environmental challenges.
VOLTstack’s integration of recharging via its own solar panels offers the unique possibility of regenerating while power is simultaneously drawn down. Tom Bennett, Director of Marketing for Portable Electric, gives the example of an outdoor event that used the benefit of this solar recharging capability while on site. “What was sitting around a 1,000 watt load was reduced down to 300 watts, thereby significantly extending the time the station could produce power for the event.”
Bennett points out an important of factor when considering the power stream coming from a power station, something called “trigger time” — the actual time a tool is being used. He points to studies conducted by leading power tool manufacturers that suggest that over the course of an hour, a tool is only in use for about 15 minutes.
“VOLTstack does not waste power if it’s not being drawn on, unlike a gas generator which is always running and burning fuel,” says Bennett. “It’s amazing how much energy is wasted using a gas generator. A power station is only drawing down when you need power — an 80 to 90 per cent efficiency rate that far exceeds a gas generator with its typical 30 per cent efficiency.”
There are also important health and safety benefits. For example, there are places where one cannot place a gas or diesel generator, for example right next to workers due to noise and exhaust reasons. Remotely locating a fuel-burning generator might then require a network of long cables. On the other hand, a VOLTstack power station placed exactly where needed can contribute to a level of convenience, efficiency and comfort.
The inevitable discussions over costs are similar to those heard with EV’s (electric vehicles).
“There is an additional cap-ex or rental cost, of course,” says Bennett. “However, when one looks at useful lifetime, the cost of fuel for gas generators, and the reduced amount of maintenance needed for power stations, especially with solar involved, there is definitely value over time.”
John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont. based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.