Commercial and Industrial Generator FAQs
How do commercial generators work?
Commercial generators are a type of power generator and can be run using different fuels. Common commercial applications are to provide standby power in the healthcare and data center sectors.
Hospitals require reliable back-up power generation as any loss of power could mean loss of human life, as life support systems and operating theaters need continuous power.
Data centers also need a reliable power supply as a power outage could endanger important government and business data. There are many other commercial sectors that choose to install generators as standby power, from hotels to schools to commercial office blocks.
Generators are also used to supply continuous power in commercial and institutional settings, for example in combined heat and power schemes—for cogeneration. Where a large building or campus needs heat as well as electricity, it makes sense to use a generator. This is because when fuel energy is converted to electricity in a generator, or, indeed, in a power station, around half of it is lost as heat. Instead of wasting that heat, cogeneration schemes use it to keep the building warm, alongside producing electricity.
How do industrial generators work?
Industrial generators work in the same way as commercial generators but are usually designed to be more robust so that they can operate in rough environments. Generators used in mining applications, for example, may be exposed to very dusty conditions, and thus require enhanced air and fuel filtering components. Generators used at chemical and petrochemical facilities may operate in corrosive or explosive environments and so require the appropriate safety features.
Additionally, industrial generators may have enhanced reliability requirements. Oil and gas drilling operations, for example, can generate tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of losses in a single day if on-site power is unavailable. In mining operations, a loss of power can mean a loss of ventilation in the mine, which would put the lives of underground workers at risk.
Industrial generators have to be configured to provide the mix of power needed—standby, prime power and continuous power—to ensure safe and efficient operations. There is a world of difference between a generator keeping the lights on in a Midwest office block and one heating a building in the frozen wastes of Canada.
Electrical utilities can also use generators to power the electrical grid. Because of their great flexibility and fast-start capabilities, generators are the ideal complement to solar and wind power generation resources on an electrical grid. For example, when clouds appear and obscure the sun, generators can quickly kick in and pick up the load previously served by solar panels.
Generators are also ideal for powering the electrical grid on islands, where they increasingly work alongside solar, wind and energy storage resources.
Sometimes the distinction between commercial, industrial and utility use becomes blurred. Some military bases, for example, have generators that ensure power is available if there is a loss of outside electrical service, but also export power to the grid in normal times, effectively serving as power plants for the utility. In the same way, some data centers use their standby generators as mini-power plants to serve their local grid when they are not needed by the data center.
What size commercial or industrial generator do I need?
The size of the generator depends on the application, and ensuring that the rated power matches the use for standby, prime power or continuous power applications. You can use our industry-leading solution, Power Suite, to understand your power generation needs.