Backup generators are powered by internal combustion engines that use fossil fuels. Traditionally, diesel fuel has been the preferred choice for generator systems, but that is changing as natural gas-powered generators are becoming more viable.
Diesel and natural gas each offer certain benefits and drawbacks to consider.
Diesel generators have a proven history of reliability and accessibility and can be cost-effective for large-kW applications (usually 150 kW or more), but they may not make financial sense for small-kW applications. Diesel generators also require a high level of maintenance. Diesel is susceptible to factors such as oxidation, corrosion or contamination from microorganisms. Organizations must maintain ongoing fuel testing, plus cleaning to remove water and sediment from the fuel tank.
Due to recent technological improvements, such as optimized air and fuel mixtures and hardened valves and seats, natural gas generators now offer more reliability and durability than in the past. Natural gas is supplied by a utility instead of being stored on-site, which can be beneficial for refueling during long power outages. Environmental concerns are mitigated since businesses aren’t required to store large tanks of fuel.
The lack of on-site fuel storage can also be a drawback. During an emergency or natural disaster, if a utility’s infrastructure is disrupted, it could affect the delivery of natural gas. Overall, natural gas generators are more cost-effective for small-kW applications but more expensive for large-kW applications.
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