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Fossil Fuel Generators, Alternatives Or Not?

I woke up with a headache this morning due to the unpleasant noise all through the night. I couldn’t get any moment of serenity at a time when I needed rest the most. Let me brief you on what I actually mean exactly.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and transparent natural gas that leads to suffocation. According to reports, more than 900 people died of poisoning from portable generators between 2005 and 2017, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also indicates that an estimated 15,400 people were treated in emergency rooms for portable generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning during that period (Consumer Reports).

Researches shows that diesel-powered generators caused disasters leading to catastrophic wildfire and hurricanes.

In addition to being potentially deadly, diesel-powered generators are loud and bulky, and releases greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change.

Over the years, generators have played a part in off- grid power especially in Nigeria, due to how cheap they are, readily available option to provide off-grid power. But as the market for fossil fuel generators continues to increase, it’s safe to wonder, is this the best option?

Grid connectivity in Nigeria is always limited and unstable, these generators  are often used as backup source. Digital technology, electronics and industrial growth are key factors that drive the growth for this market. When power demands grows faster than supply (just like in Nigeria), fossil fuel generator becomes more popular due to low operating cost, the market is expected to reach 26.09billion with a compound annual growth rate of 5.5% by 2029.

Fossil fuel generators might offer lifesaving power, cheap but however there are several downsides to reflect on as we look at a substitute for off-grid power generation possibilities.

Lets take a case study of a fossil fuel generator that has an output of about 50kW, generating about 85 decibels equivalent to noises at city traffic. In comparison, 2000kW model may emit 120 decibels which is just like the sound of a jet airplane about 1,000 feet over head. These pollution causes sleep disorders, heart diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, high blood pressure etc.

Unfortunately, people will probably be turning to generators more often as climate disasters become more frequent. The good news is there are cleaner generators available.

Solar Generators

Clean, quite and safer than fossil fuel generators, solar generators are generators that use the emission from sunlight and converts it to electricity, they don’t emit any greenhouse gas but rather replenishes the ozone layer. How does it work? Solar generators comprises of a battery that stores energy from the solar panel (converts sunlight energy to electricity) for later use, a charge controller that protect the battery from getting overcharged, an inverter that converts the DC voltage from the battery to AC voltage that can be used to power home appliances.

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Although the cost of a solar-powered generator can be hulking, their maintenance cost is typically low over the course of their lifecycle. With fewer moving parts, makes it silent in operation and solar cells having typical lifecycle of about 25 to 30years.

They come in a range of sizes: from as large as an outdoor home air conditioning unit to as small as a briefcase or boombox. They generally take longer to power than diesel generators, however, and are dependent on consistent sunny days, so keep this in mind upon purchase and use.

Wind turbines

More commonly spotted in their larger forms on farms and in fields, wind turbines are manufactured at a smaller scale for plugging into a green generator and powering at-home projects. Though not suitable for all homes and geographic locations, home wind generators are great for those with large outdoor spaces and residents of the Midwest, where breezes are bountiful.

Wind turbines collect kinetic energy through the rotation of their propellers and store it in an attached generator. They typically cost anywhere from several hundred to a few thousand dollars, but are said to pay for themselves within a few years by their output. They’re relatively noisy compared to solar sources, but are completely green and emission-free, and therefore safer for general use than fossil fuel generators.

Unlike solar power, wind power can be collected at all hours of the day, but wind turbines’ space and location requirements make them far more prohibitive than rooftop panels. Installers recommend having winds of at least 12 miles per hour, on average, and a decent amount of outdoor space in which to install the turbines.

Hydro Power

It is the process of generating electricity from the movement or flow of water through a turbine, the turbine is been rotated by the power from the flow of water the energy from the rotation of the turbine is then converted into electrical energy. The electrical energy generated is then been boosted by a step up transformer then through various transmission lines and transformers, then to distribution lines and transformers to industries, commercial and residential areas.

About 20% of Nigeria power generation comes from hydroelectric distribution which has a high potential of growth to power the entire country, but at it stands now the total generation capacity is far less than the total installed capacity which is due to wear and tear of electrical machine, transmission losses etc. However, if corrective maintenance is carried out thoroughly on the power plant, the total generation capacity will increase by 35% according to statistics. 

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From suffocation to depletion of the ozone layer to global warming. Earthquakes and hurricanes are on rising term as the constant use of diesel generators are on the high, leading to damages of lives and properties. This means the effects of carbon monoxide can never be overemphasized.

Health risks from hearing loss, heart dysfunctionality, high blood pressure etc. placing mankind at receiving end.

However, the demand for fossil fuel generators keeps increasing daily, which might result to more natural disasters, global warming, health risk and so on.

Fortunately, there are better substitutes that will offer clean power free from release of greenhouse gases, noise pollution and natural disasters.

The power generated from the movement of flow of water through turbines is a potential alternative, as Nigeria currently generates 20% of its total power from hydroelectric power plants.

The radiation from the sun can be converted to electricity using various electrical and electronic devices with converters. Solar generator or Solar off/on grid installation has been seen as one of the best means of generation of green power. In fact, most automobile companies have now started producing vehicles that uses the energy generated from solar panel, stores it in a battery (for later or intermittent use).

Though expensive, but researches had shown that wind power generation is one of the best options for alternative power, as electricity is obtained from wind turbines in as much as the direction of wind moves in the same direction as the turbine.

I enlightened my flatmate about the adverse effects of fossil fuel generators and potential substitutes, and posed a provocation question; “Is Fossil Fuel Generator the Only Option?” and he replied with a smile “Nope”.

No doubt there are countless renewable alternatives to fossil fuel engines that are easily accessible, but the problem is, that we have not yet explored the field, we hope in a few years to come fossil fuel generators will be totally replaced by a better, healthier and cleaner option.

Abdullahi Aliyu

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