When the local power grid goes down, a commercial building built today might incorporate backup power to be more resilient, mitigate against financial losses, keep employees and customers safe, provide vital services, or some combination of these goals.
After experiencing recent vulnerabilities in the electric grid, business owners and building operators are seeking resilient power solutions—and commercial construction professionals can meet this need by offering propane backup power.
Propane is a stable, portable energy source that can help support Americans even when the grid goes down, ensuring continuity of operations. Plus, using propane every day in your facilities helps reduce the strain on our fragile electric grid and the more diverse America’s energy mix is, the more reliable it is.
The impact of power outages on commercial buildings
Power outages in commercial buildings create enormous costs and hardships for business owners, tenants, and employees. Most notably, the cost of outages can include loss in productivity, sales, and product, as well as brand damage and safety issues. For these reasons, many commercial buildings are incorporating backup power systems—either voluntarily or based on code requirements.
S&C Electric Company surveyed facilities and energy managers of commercial and industrial businesses across the U.S. in 2018 and found that productivity loss and delays within service, deliveries, and production were the top two problems faced by businesses as a result of power outages.
The same study found that around 82 percent of all businesses experience an outage at least every two years, and 24 percent of respondents experience an outage once a month or more. Of the various industry segments, the education sector experiences the most in terms of outage frequency, with 7 percent of that sector encountering an outage once a week and more than a quarter of the manufacturing industry deals with an outage at least once a month.
In this same research, the respondents also said that power outages can have a significant impact on the reputation of their business. The types of impacts vary by the building type and the industry—for example, a high-end hotel or restaurant is very sensitive to a damaged reputation.
Help customers achieve a resilient design with propane backup power
Preparedness is the best defense, which is why it’s important to start a conversation with your customers on this topic. Construction professionals who are well-versed in reliable, resilient generator systems will set themselves up for success as a growing number of Americans continue to seek backup power solutions.
Installing permanent backup generators is one common building resilience strategy, and the use of permanently installed backup power generators is increasing significantly. In fact, the same study of facilities and energy managers mentioned above found that 60 percent of respondents own alternative energy sources such as onsite power generation.
Propane-powered generators offer affordable resilience, nonstop operation, and peace of mind for commercial buildings of all kinds. For commercial customers, this means giving them the ability to go back to business tomorrow after a storm today—which is invaluable for many operations.
Propane versus diesel: which is the better backup fuel
Diesel is the traditional choice for backup generators, but the stability of diesel fuel presents a significant challenge. Diesel degrades over time via oxidation, which can lead to maintenance issues. Additionally, the need for either automatic fuel maintenance systems or manual operations increases the total ownership cost of the diesel system, another important factor to include in the evaluation of fuel and equipment options.
Propane, on the other hand, does not degrade or oxidize over time like diesel, so there’s no fuel maintenance issues with propane—which can be a major cost and operational benefit in backup power systems that either require or prefer on-site fuel storage. On-site fuel storage is an important consideration and can help ensure that the generator is ready to operate and won’t be subject to upstream fuel reliability issues—and propane tanks can provide on-site propane storage for backup power systems of any size.
Another valuable benefit for operators is propane’s environmental profile, which is favorable compared to diesel, offering lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, particulate matter, and CO2 emissions. Most notably, data from the DOE shows 16 percent greater carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy for diesel compared with propane.
Bryan Cordill is director of residential and commercial business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at email@example.com.