Described as one piece of a very big puzzle, the Caterpillar Tucson Proving Ground (TPG) is now enjoying the benefits of solar energy. The TPG microgrid commissioned this week is the result of a series of powerful collaborations between two Caterpillar divisions, multiple partners and vendors, one Cat® dealer and dozens of dedicated team members.
The larger puzzle taking shape is Caterpillar’s new microgrid strategy, led by the Electric Power, Marine, Oil & Gas division’s (EPMOG) New Ventures team. The new commercial offering pairs solar energy, with the reliability of Cat gensets and industry-leading energy storage technology. To prove out the offering for our customers, the Product Development & Global Technology (PD>) offered up the Proving Ground as an ideal location for the flagship installation of the renewable energy project.
Located nearly 30 miles southwest of Tucson, Arizona, TPG has been “off the grid” since its founding 25 years ago. Its distance from the traditional power grid means TPG must rely on three Cat C15 diesel gensets to power the offices and shop facilities at one of Caterpillar’s three global validation sites.
Now, just a few steps from the roaring generator room that powers TPG, five acres of rolling desert hills are covered in solar panels. The solar panels, manufactured by First Solar and installed by Empire Cat, are perfectly positioned to capture the abundant Arizona sun, reducing the genset requirements. That intense sunlight is regularly interrupted by passing clouds and fluctuates throughout the day, at times dramatically reducing the energy input. To account for these frequent, sudden and unpredictable drops in energy, the microgrid solution uses bidirectional inverters and energy storage in order to balance out the load.
This hybrid solution will reduce the facility’s diesel fuel use and emissions by 33 percent each year. This would be a significant savings for any project but when you take into account that TPG uses 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually, the numbers translate to incredible benefits.
“The microgrid project has moved from concept to commercialization at an incredibly rapid pace, helping to bring sustainability to life here at TPG and to our customers around the world,” said Dave Damerell, PD>’s global director of product validation. “It just goes to show you the power of collaboration and innovation. We can do big things when we work together.”
To learn more about Caterpillar’s new microgrid strategy and the product launch that took place in Tucson this week, visit cat.com/microgrid.
To learn more about Caterpillar’s corporate sustainability work, visitCaterpillar.com/sustainability.
Caterpillar TPG proving grounds, Tucson, West Caterpillar Trail, Green Valley, AZ, United States