When most people think ‘power outage,’ they picture this as a result of a natural disaster of some kind. One might envision a hurricane, a tornado or an earthquake. The recent “intentional” partial power shutdown by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in northern California, however, demonstrates that this is not always the case.
The fact is individuals and, perhaps even more so, businesses depend on steady and dependable energy supply to function and “stay alive”. Focusing on the business world, whether we are talking about a small business or a major corporation, even short discontinuation of power could spell disaster.
Losses For Industries
Manufacturers and retailers can suffer heavy losses of perishable goods, and service-oriented businesses, such as banks and other financial institutions, can suffer greatly from the downed computers and phone lines. ‘Life and death’ is no exaggeration for hospitals and other health care providers in the face of an extended power outage.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon the prudent business owner to make plans ahead of time for covering potential outages. The plan should have flexibility and durability built-in.
For example, the plan should incorporate the actions to be taken to cover outages that may last a few minutes, a few hours or a few days or more. This brief article will define a few of the options available and provide information for the reader to conduct more thorough research for themselves.
Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPSs)
Most uninterruptible power supplies are fairly inexpensive and are designed to maintain power for only a short while. These are an important stop-gap solution, especially for environments with a heavy dependence on computers and other sensitive electronic equipment. The intent, essentially, is to maintain a power flow just long enough to save your data and to prepare for a longer power outage if necessary.
These can be sourced at a number of home improvement and retail stores and are a good backup to have in case power is out for a few hours. Electrical devices are typically routed to and plugged into the portable generator. Most portable generators run on gasoline.
Standby generators are typically larger and are plugged into your system 24/7, though in a “dormant” state. They are designed to kick on and begin running in the event of an energy failure. Although these are surely a ‘safe bet’ in terms of backup, they can be costly and may require permits to run. You must also consider stocking and maintaining the fuel supply, which is usually natural gas, propane or diesel fuel.
Now then, temporary power supplies, as mentioned above, can be further broken down into two categories: “interim” and “bridge to permanent.”
Interim Power Solutions
As the name implies, interim power solutions were never designed to be permanent. You may not know how long you will need to use this source, but you have determined that the system is not intended to be a fixed, permanent source of power.
Bridge-to-Permanent Power Solutions
In certain scenarios, the energy user knows that they will need a permanent, fixed source of backup power at a particular location, but may have a plan to use a temporary generation solution until the permanent solution is designed and built.
The important thing for individuals in decision making roles in small businesses or large corporations is to gather accurate and reliable information ahead of decision-making time.