Solar eclipse could trigger power outages

On Friday (20th March) the UK will witness its biggest solar eclipse since 1999 with experts warning of potential blackouts. If a power shortage does occur the continuity of your critical systems could be under threat if your stored diesel is contaminated. Are you confident in the reliability of your fuel?

Forecasters estimate that the eclipse will last for around two hours and could have a major impact on Europe’s ability to provide power due to:

  • An uncommon surge in the demand for energy due to all building lights and street lights being switched on during the day.
  • The capacity of energy produced from solar power will be dramatically reduced during the two hour period.

In London and the south east it is estimated that around 85 per cent of the sun will be obscured by the moon whilst in northern Scotland, more than 95 per cent will be covered. Across the rest of Europe it’s expected that around 90 per cent of the sun’s rays will be blocked out. This will cause the European energy grid to lose the equivalent generation capacity of eight to ten very large coal power plants.

There is no doubt that the national grid will have made provisions for this natural event. But with the UK spinning reserve running as low as 4% your critical systems could be at risk if your gen sets are attempting to support your organisation with dirty fuel.

Dirty fuel kills gen sets

Typically a back up gen set will have enough fuel to power the load for hours or days in the event of mains power problems. But the fuel they use, which is often stored for long periods of time, actually comes with a limited shelf life.

In 2011 biofuel was introduced to improve the environmental impact of using diesel but this also introduced a limited shelf life. If stored under normal conditions it can be expected to stay in a useable condition for 6-12 months. Engine manufacturers (such as Cummins) even suggest that fuel should not be stored for longer than 6 months without a fuel conditioning programme. As it gets older it will suffer from contamination that includes:

Depending on the type and severity of the contamination this can clog filters, damage engine injectors or cause total engine failure.

The Solution? A fuel conditioning programme

The key to maintaining fuel quality is good housekeeping. IPU recommend that organisations employ a regular fuel conditioning programme to ensure that diesel-powered equipment runs reliably and economically.

This may sound complicated but it doesn’t have to be. IPU can assist you at every stage from initial fuel testing through to tank cleaning and ongoing conditioning. It’s the simple cost effective alternative to replacing an entire back up generator. Call our team on +44 (0) 121 511 0400 or use this link for more information.