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To see the article as it appeared in print, please go to The NOMAD Solution to Replace Mobile Generators.
Every once in a while, I come across an idea that is new to me but seems so obvious that it is really surprising that I have never seen it before. In fact, it seems to been unnoticed by everyone, until some bright person came up with it. Then, in hindsight, it really is obvious.
A company called NOMAD Transportable Power Systems, Inc. (NOMAD), based in Waterbury, Vermont, manufactures large transportable battery electric storage systems. The systems are on trailers and can be hauled about on roads, so anyone with a need for a big battery can get it to where it is needed. What is big? NOMAD’s largest transportable battery has a capacity of 1 megawatt (MW) and 2 megawatt-hours (MWh). How much is 2 MWh? An American household of four people might use 2 MWh in about 2 months, unless they conserve, in which case it could last longer. Put another way, 2 MWh might power a neighborhood for a full day.
Some people would find the idea that a battery might be hauled to where it is needed a bit uninteresting. But I have no doubt they would see the point very clearly if they ever got emergency power from a nearby diesel generator for a few hours. In the past, emergency generators have been brought into use where they were needed. But they were nearly always noisy and polluting contraptions that cost a lot to run because of their fuel. NOMAD replaces the mobile generator with a mobile battery that is perfectly quiet and non-polluting.
The first commercial application a NOMAD system was used powered a factory for several hours while the local transmission system was under repair. Green Mountain Power (GMP) used the system to deal with the outage, because they knew the problem could be dealt with in just a few hours and the NOMAD system could provide all the energy needed.
Only a short time after that, there was a second use of a NOMAD system. Service was needed on part of the electric distribution system in Proctor, VT. Normally, the neighborhood would have lost power during the repairs, but instead GMP supported 230 houses using a NOMAD system to provide power to them while the repairs were being done.
GMP has purchased the 1-MW, 2-MWh configuration, the largest NOMAD offers, and plans for future deployments to support scheduled and unscheduled outages. There are also two smaller systems available, with capacities of 500 kilowatts (kW), 1.3 MWh, and 250 kW, 660 kilowatt-hours (kWh).
The real advantages of such systems becomes really obvious when we consider some of the other possible uses. For instance, what if a hospital is cut off from its electricity source? Hospitals generally have backup generators, but even so, it might be wise to use a NOMAD system and go without the backup power. Diesel generators are usually noisy, and most of them pollute the air badly. Patients in hospitals tend to be vulnerable, and the stress of the noise and polluted air they might get from an emergency diesel system should be avoided.
Another circumstance might be an outdoor concert. This is something that can be planned in advance and the question of where electricity will come from can be considered carefully. We know that an ordinary diesel power system is not acceptable because of its noise. A NOMAD power system could supply quite a lot of power for quite a few hours, nearly silently, so it doesn’t take over the show, as a conventional transportable power system could.
Chris McKay, the Chief Operating Officer of NOMAD, provided some background on the company. It is three years old and came into being largely because of a vision by people at KORE Power, a battery manufacturer and KORE Solutions (formally Northern Reliability) an energy storage system integrator. After it was started up, NOMAD attracted a number of investments, but KORE Power still owns 30%. NOMAD now has sixteen employees in a building in Waterbury, Vermont, which it shares with a KORE Power office.
Unsurprisingly, the NOMAD power systems are built with KORE Power lithium-ion batteries. Each NOMAD system is a trailer that can be pulled by a tractor to whatever place it is needed. The tractor itself has to be substantial, because the large NOMAD systems are rather heavy. The largest units have batteries that weigh about 18 tons, but they also carry everyting needed to make the unit a “plug and play” connection with the sites they supply with power. Add the weight of the trailer itself, along with a hefty cooling system and whatever other ancillary equipment is needed, and we can see there can be a lot of weight in the transportable battery system.
Some obvious uses of the NOMAD transportable power units are for resilience and disaster relief and EV charging in areas without sufficient chargers. If an area is struck by a hurricane, NOMAD power systems could be sent to provide power to a community in places where they can be charged by local solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. It is important to note that PVs cannot power a section of disabled grid without the special equipment it needs to do so. The PVs need inverters to supply AC electricity, and without batteries they only work during the daytime, supplying power of irregular voltage. To support a local grid area, the amount of power supplied has to match demand, and that means more equipment. NOMAD systems have all such equipment built in.
Some things are so obvious, once you just see them. This is somenthing I didn’t see coming. Now that I see it, I find it really exciting.
NOMAD’s web site is www.nomadpower.com.
NOMAD’s 1-MW system on its way through Chicago. Courtesy of NOMAD.