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Plug-And-Play Off The Grid
Jeremy Faludi, 18 Oct 05

One of the big obstacles to going off-grid is the expertise required to set up a solar, wind, or other self-contained power system--this expertise translates to high installation costs and potential maintenance problems down the line. Wouldn't it be nice if you could just plop down a box and flip the "on" switch?
We're not quite at that point yet, but there's a new player in town that's made big strides towards that: SkyBuilt Power. From their website:

The [mobile power system] sets up in hours and is a complete power system prepackaged in a standard freight container that can be shipped easily worldwide by sea, air, truck and rail. The MPS operates in any climate, needs no fuel, is very low maintenance, rugged, and can be remotely controlled. It can provide power from 3.5kW to 150kW or more for backup or base load power to pump water, provide emergency power for disaster relief and any long-term power needs. It can use any combination of off the shelf components such as solar power, wind, batteries, and micro hydro power, and can work with diesel or other fuel-based systems.

They're working with the Research Institute of Kazakhstan to use the system in remote regions, and in the wake of Katrina are publicizing the suitability of their product for disaster relief (both for relief operations and to restore power to damaged areas.) According to the Christian Science Monitor, they are also starting to get venture-capital funding from the CIA, which could help them ramp up faster.

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Hi - I'm completing a master's degree on Renewable Energy and actually worked on what seems to be an identical container put together 10 years ago by students at Kassel University in Germany. The container is quite an impressive piece of engineering (both Sky Built and the one I worked on ) but I and some of my professors questioned the data given. Specifically (quoting 1 of my profs):

"the concept and the design is a copy of a project we started 10 years ago and published also in the 1st PV world conference in Hawaii. In Australia mobile hybrid systems have been around for many years!

One main figure in the article is the power output of 150 kW continuously - that can't be true! You would require minimum 730 kWp of PV for that amount (at a top site e.g. Northern Africa) or 500 kW of wind energy at a good site - or a combination of both.

The picture provided is a system with about 1.5 kWp and a 750 W wind energy converter. Given the quality factors of stand alone systems, this might provide 150 W continuously.

I do not believe other things, e.g. that you can drop it via parachute - I bet it does not work any more. Consider the requirements to drop a bank of lead acid batteries....

Finally: what would it cost: such a system costs in the range of 50 to 60 k€ if you can make it cheap.."

Posted by: Jeff Pinto on 22 Oct 05



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