Ready, Reliable and Renewable: Diesel Power a Key Part of Hurricane Preparedness

Diesel Provides Emergency Power, Supports Recovery Efforts, and Plays a Vital Role in Microgrids

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 07, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The 2017 hurricane season was particularly brutal. Seventeen storms unfolded between June 1 and November 30, 2017. Five Category 5 storms made landfall. Three Category 4 storms hit within a 26-day period. Maria was the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in 90 years. Harvey dumped 60.58 inches of rain in Texas. Hurricanes Maria and Irma caused a combined 2,001,000,000 customer-hours of lost electricity service.

This week, the National Weather Service observes National Hurricane Preparedness Week, getting ready for the start of the 2018 hurricane season on June 1.

“Preparing for hurricanes and weather-related natural disasters well in advance is a critical first step to a successful recovery as well as minimizing losses from the storm event. Diesel power plays a major role in making sure businesses, governments and private citizens are prepared for and can respond to any emergency,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. “Diesel generators provide backup, emergency power for everything from national historic landmarks, to iconic baseball stadiums, to local schools, to hospitals, to police stations, to flood protection pump stations, to deep space observatories, to bird sanctuaries, to produce companies, to nuclear power plants, to whole islands."

"Rescue and recovery efforts after natural disasters reinforce the vital role of diesel power," continued Schaeffer. "Most Americans are unaware of the important role diesel technology plays in ensuring vital routine and emergency services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Nowhere is it more critical to have the ultimate performance and reliability than in fire and emergency vehicles, where diesel is the technology of choice. In the aftermath of a storm, public drinking water and wastewater treatment systems must be functional to protect public health and these typically have diesel generators on back-up."

In the Outer Banks in South Carolina, two portable diesel generators provided emergency backup power, when the original backup source failed. During the continued aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, diesel generators have supported essential services for months, in some cases functioning more reliably than the country’s own power grid.

More than 98 percent of ambulances, fire trucks, mobile command centers and other first-responder vehicles rely on diesel fuel. And after storms have passed, the giant construction trucks, bulldozers, excavators, loaders and dump trucks that move in to assist with clean-up are also powered by diesel; in the U.S., more than 75 percent of construction equipment is fueled by diesel. Diesel is also the technology of choice for large commercial trucks and rescue vehicles that will deliver food and vital supplies to help feed, clothe and provide medical supplies to storm ravaged communities; 99 percent of U.S. Class 8 trucks use diesel fuel.

Beyond stand-alone power applications, advanced technology diesel engines and equipment are now being integrated into the newest distributed and sustainable energy systems such as renewable- and battery-driven microgrids. These new-generation systems give operators the renewable fuel that they want, with the reliability that they need coming from stand-by diesel power. Erin Whitney, researcher at the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, has said oil and renewables together can supply electricity to microgrids; diesel is a source of power generation, while renewables can reduce the load and save fuel.

Take the wind turbine-based microgrid undergoing tests at Join Base Cape Cod; the U.S. military’s first renewable energy microgrid uses a battery to store electricity, and a diesel generator in case everything else fails. On the island of Kauai, Hawaii during sunny days, the island’s utility generates 97 percent of its power from solar, biomass and hydropower. Since March 2017, Tesla battery packs have been able to store enough energy to keep the grid going for up to four hours after sunset. The rest of the time, the island’s diesel-fired power plants kick in. And Nantucket, Massachusetts is another prime example; there, the island’s prime power is backed up by a combination of diesel generators and battery packs.

To prepare for this year’s hurricane season, here are some practical tips to follow to protect against power outages:

Fast Facts about Diesel Generators

  • Many diesel generators are built to withstand temperatures below 0°F and built to withstand winds up to 180 miles per hour.
  • Diesel generators are able to achieve full load-carrying capacity within 10 seconds of grid power outage.
  • Diesel generators come in various mobile sizes and configurations and come with their own standalone fuel supply – important when other sources of power are disabled by utilities in an emergency situation.
  • Nearly 90,000 diesel generators were produced in 2017. Diesel generators are available in 500kw sizes and lead the production in 2017 in the 50-250 and 250-500kw size ranges. (Source: Power Systems Research; in Diesel Progress magazine April 2018 page 18)
  • More information about diesel generators can be found at CumminsCaterpillarJohn DeereMTU and Volvo.

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About The Diesel Technology Forum

The Diesel Technology Forum is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines, fuel and technology. Forum members are leaders in clean diesel technology and represent the three key elements of the modern clean-diesel system: advanced engines, vehicles and equipment, cleaner diesel fuel and emissions-control systems. For more information, visit



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