City saves money with double-duty standby generator set from Cummins

City of Wayzata

The village of Wayzata enjoys a picturesque location on the northeastern shore of beautiful Lake Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis, Minnesota (U.S.A). Like most towns it has a sewer system with lift stations to carry wastewater to treatment facilities. Unlike most towns, it also has a municipally owned restaurant and liquor store, known affectionately to the locals as The Muni. These city entities share an innovative solution for standby power.

When town officials met with Cummins to develop a standby power plan for their expanded wastewater system with larger lift stations, it was determined that a 150 kW model was the best fit for the lift station’s 125 kW power needs.

Inventive thinking on the part of city staff led to the realization that the extra 25 kW of capacity could be put to good use providing standby power for the coolers and cash registers at the city’s restaurant and wine shop, since The Muni was located close to the site of the new lift station. Cummins sales engineer Doug Abrahamson worked with city engineering staff to develop the detailed 60-page design specifications for the novel double-duty backup system.

Read more on the Wayzata case study at cummins.com. 
 

Adam Sidders Marketing Communications Leader Power Systems

Adam Sidders

Adam Sidders is the Marketing Communications Leader for the Power Systems Business Unit of Cummins Inc. Prior to joining Cummins in 2012 Adam worked in Financial Services for Europe’s largest independently owned insurer as their Marketing and Communications Manager. [email protected]

Protecting your family from outages

Protecting your family from outages

The Texas blackout is only a symptom of a nationwide problem: What you need to know about the fragile state of the electric grid and how to protect your family from outages.

In February 2021, a massive winter storm plunged the Texas region into a virtual snow globe. Not only was the state unprepared to remove the snow that blocked roads and access, but the grid supplying Texan’s with critical electricity couldn’t handle it either. 

In the days and weeks that followed, millions of people wanted to know who was to blame for the massive outages that have been attributed to 111 deaths

It turns out, the ‘who’ was the simple question. And the simple solution.

After stripping away the many layers of blame shifting, the ‘how’ behind the blackout is much more concerning: The grid was physically incapable of keeping up with the demand for power, even if the entire grid remained online. There just wasn’t enough power to satisfy the demand.

As the temperature dropped on February 14th, Texans began turning on their heat, which was mostly electric. With so many homes trying to stay warm, a record-shattering demand spike was seen to the tune of 74.5 gigawatts

In comparison, normal Texas grid operation is roughly 58 gigawatts, statewide. To prepare for temporary surges in demand, the Texas grid can increase their supply to a maximum of 67 gigawatts. 

In other words, the demand for electricity was almost 8 gigawatts over what could be supplied under any circumstances. Even in emergencies. 

The unavoidable truth is that even if Texas’ electric generation capacity stayed 100% online during the storm, there still would have been blackouts. The grid just couldn't keep up with the power demands placed on it by the population.  

By time the storm had passed, 14 U.S. States were forced to establish rolling blackouts to cover the electric shortage. Even outside of Texas, there just wasn't enough power to go around.
  
This is not a new phenomenon, either. 

In fact, electrical systems engineers and industry experts have been issuing reports for years that all say the same thing: without a staggering shift in upgrades and spending, outages will only increase in frequency and duration. Placing millions of people at risk every time the grid goes down.

And they unanimously agree that no section of the grid is “safe” from longer, and more frequent, outages. Nationwide. 

Why is the grid struggling? And what can we do to protect our homes and businesses from the inevitable threats that follow power outages? 

Our electric grid is like a house of cards

When operating under ideal conditions, the U.S. electric grid is a deeply complex interconnected system of power generation plants, transformers and some 6 million miles of wires. 

Using sensors, switching gear, and control centers, the grid can reroute power if small sections go black because of storms, accidents, or even repair work. Most of the time, people don’t even realize that something has rerouted their power because the transitions are near-seamless.

At least, that’s how the grid works under perfect conditions.

In August 2003, a transmission cable in Ohio heated from above-normal power demands, causing the cable to become flexible and sag. The sagging cable touched a tree, which caused a power failure. When that section went dark, nearby sections of the grid attempted to pick up the extra burden as designed to keep the lights on. 

Only those sections were already under a substantial load of their own from consumer demand and could not handle the increase. They, too, went down.

Over the next few hours, a cascading series of demand shifts continued to take down sections of the grid in a snowball effect, until over 50 million people across 8 U.S. states and parts of Canada were without power. 

The 2003 Northeast Blackout, as it was termed, took weeks to restore the entire grid to 100% functionality, contributed to 11 deaths and cost an estimated $6 billion in lost production and damages

Despite the grid operating exactly as designed, the power demand was simply too great to manage.

An aging grid over capacity… and the demand just keeps going up

In their 2017 Infrastructure Report, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the US electric grid a D+. The shocking report stated: “much of the U.S. energy system predates the turn of the 20th century. Most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy...the lower 48 states’ power grid is at full capacity, with many lines operating well beyond their design.”  

In shorter terms, they designed much of the grid to only last 50 years before replacement. And it was installed 70 years ago when the average home and business used a fraction of the power they do now.

And the well-intentioned adoption of electric vehicles and home charging stations may dramatically balloon the demand for electricity past the point of sustainability.

According to new research from energy systems engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), just one or two electric vehicles on one block may overload nearby transformers past their operating capacity. Transformers that may have operated for 30-40 years will probably need to be replaced in less than 10, which exponentially increases the cost of just maintaining the grid. 

For comparison, the current king of home electric use, a central air conditioner, uses roughly 7kW of power to cool a large 3,500 square foot home during the height of summer. The charger necessary to keep a single electric car ready for everyday use, on the other hand, can demand a staggering 22kw while charging. Put another way, that single charger is the power equivalent of three large central air units cooling a combined 10,500 square feet of living space.    

So add the demands of new transformers to the projected $197 billion investment gap by 2029, and it gets a lot clearer why the DOE’s Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program plan, said that electric utilities will need to spend between $1.5 and $2 trillion from 2010 to 2030, just to maintain reliability of the existing grid.

All told, from 2008-2017, there was an average of 3,188 blackouts per year, plunging an average of 21.96 million people per year, into the dark. 

That is a whole lot of blackouts you may not have heard about until right now.

So if the grid is really this strained, and they forecast electricity demand to dramatically increase with electric vehicles, what can we do to protect our homes and families during an emergency?

Managing the inevitable outages with comfort and security 

Statistically, most of the documented outages when demand outstripped supply occurred during more extreme weather events. Realistically, when it is very hot or very cold, people will be calling on more electricity to maintain a comfortable, and safe, temperature.

Logically, that also means we should be doubly concerned about these types of outage events since losing power during severe weather also means losing the ability to keep our homes at safe temperatures, with running water and safe food storage. 

If the problem is the grid letting us down, then the clear preparation alternative is to generate your own electricity to keep your lights on. 

Let’s look at two ways to do that.

Solar Power

Solar power is a fantastic alternative to grid power, and also has the potential to generate electricity year round, not just during an outage. As long as the sun is up and shining, you will have electricity and a lower utility bill. 

Well, almost.

There is one critical aspect of a solar array that is absolutely necessary to run your solar during a grid outage: a battery bank. 

The reason is a federal mandate called “anti-islanding”, which was instituted to protect utility workers during power outages. Essentially, all solar systems installed in the U.S. are required to stop generating electricity in the event the grid goes down. The reason is simple: if the grid is down, then utility workers can safely fix the problem without being electrocuted. But if you have a grid-connected solar array, then your panels can still feed the grid and potentially electrocute utility workers anywhere in your vicinity. Anti-islanding prevents that risk.

The solution to this mandate is a hybrid grid-tie system that has a battery bank attached to it. During an outage, the solar array feeds power into the batteries, which are used to power loads in the home, all isolated from the grid by a transfer switch. 

The downside to this concept is that the battery banks are very large, expensive, and could need to be replaced in as little as five years.

Standby Whole House Generator 

Outside of solar arrays, the best bang for the buck option that can be installed in the shortest period is the standby whole house generator.

These generators are permanently installed next to your home and look just like a central air conditioning unit. When the power goes out, or even “browns-out”, the generator will automatically turn on and take over the power supply to your house. Even if no one is home. 

The obvious upside to this option is a total backup replacement of your power supply without sacrificing any comforts. Even on the hottest days or coldest nights, your generator will continue powering the critical items that keep your family safe and comfortable. To top it all off, natural gas-powered generators mean no refueling in the middle of the night, or needing to be home for the power to stay on. It just works.

And choosing a meticulously-designed generator, like the Cummins QuietConnect, also means no loud shrieking motors or failures at the moment of truth. Just smooth, confident electricity that is entirely inside your control.  

Keeping your lights on is a choice you can make

All of this may be very concerning, since electricity is one of those things that we just can’t imagine life without. And many of us have seen what happens when the power goes out for an extended period in severe weather: it doesn’t take long before things get ugly.

In time, the hope is that newer technology will be developed to cope with the ever-increasing demand placed on the grid. Or they will dramatically increase infrastructure spending to make up the shortfall of system-lifespan and eventual replacement. Regardless of how that solution presents itself, however, there is little doubt that the problem exists right now.

The good news is we don’t have to wait for someone else to fix our problems for us, and we certainly don’t have to wait for bad times to strike before we take steps to prevent it. 

Every family can start taking steps now to prepare for an outage later. Stocking up on warm clothes for winter outages, or bottled water for summer outages. Keeping a supply of non-perishable food on hand, or learning how to capture rainfall for the really long outages. 

Or, for the family that wants to ironclad their outage plan, consider finding your nearest Cummins dealer and scheduling a painless home assessment. In just a few minutes you can know exactly how little the ultimate peace of mind can cost and even explore financing options from Synchrony Bank. 

Then, the next time the grid lets you down, regardless of the weather or demand, your family will still be safe and comfortable.   

Information is power

Join for weather preparation and power outage tips, offers and promotions, new product offerings, and remote monitoring software updates.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Mission critical: Keeping the COVID vaccine chilled

Kalamazoo, Michigan Health and Community Services Department - Backup Power

Having reliable backup power is crucial to keeping the COVID vaccine super cold

A lot is happening in Kalamazoo County, Michigan right now. Not only is the county home to the largest manufacturing site in Pfizer’s network, but millions of doses of Pfizer’s COVID 19 vaccine are manufactured and distributed from the site every week.

Located in Western Michigan, Kalamazoo County is home to over 200,000 residents. Officials with the county’s Health and Community Services Department know that providing for local residents is a top priority, which is why they follow strict guidelines to begin preparing for those very same Pfizer vaccines to arrive at their county health department, where they will be distributing vaccines to local residents.  

What some may not realize about these vaccines is they have a very strict storage protocol. 

The vaccine doses must be stored in an ultra-cold freezer between -112 degrees and -76 degrees Fahrenheit, even during shipping. To put that into perspective, as it’s shipped from Pfizer’s manufacturing centers to locations around the globe, the vaccine is sometimes more than 10 degrees cooler than the average temperature on Mars (-81 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Pictured: The Kalamazoo Health and Community Services Department, which relies on Cummins to provide backup power to help keep doses of the COVID vaccine at the proper temperature
Pictured: The Kalamazoo Health and Community Services Department, which relies on Cummins to provide backup power to help keep doses of the COVID vaccine stored at the proper temperature

Since keeping the vaccines cold is extremely important, the Kalamazoo County health department knew they needed backup power that they could trust. 

Jeff from Critical Power Systems was just the person up for the task. With a 150kw unit on hand, Jeff was able to step in to provide the reliable and trusted backup power for the ultra-cold freezers that Cummins gives.

On the night before the vaccines on site at the health department Jeff and his crew worked through the night to get the unit up and running. Working with a global power leader like Cummins came in handy when a local Cummins technician was even able to join the site to make sure everything was up and running correctly for their tight deadline. 

Having dealers like Critical Power Systems is incredibly important for Cummins. Jeff and the crew were able to get the unit installed the night before the vaccines arrived. 

Cummins is proud to be powering what matters. Knowing that Cummins generators are providing backup power to health care facilities and the heroes inside is why we work so hard to deliver the best product. Hospital administrators can’t afford to worry about the threat of sustaining a power outage – a dire scenario that could cause the vaccine to spoil should a refrigeration unit rise to temperatures above Pfizer’s recommendations. That same power can be brought to your home to protect what matters most to you inside those four walls. 

No matter the power need, knowing that you are working with a local expert that brings Cummins’ long-standing reputation of dependability is peace of mind. 
 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Prepare for a power outage. Download the ultimate checklist.

Many families experience power outages. Preparedness is key to staying safe and comfortable during and after a power outage. Each family is unique and has different needs, making it difficult to find one power outage checklist for your family. 
We want to make the power outage preparedness easier for your family, so we have  compiled a list of power outage preparation items below. We have also categorized some of the tips based on whether your family includes children, pets or members with medical needs. 

Download the ultimate power outage checklist and print it. 

If you want to learn more about the power outage risks you face, check out how long is the power outages are in each state on average. You can also check weather events, disasters and power outages in your state.

Preparation for power outage part I: Before an outage

Safety checklist: 

  • Have enough nonperishable food and water. Have a manual can opener.
  • Review the supplies that are available in case of no power. 
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home.
  • Create a disaster prep kit for each member of your family to ensure their safety and comfort during a power outage. A basic kit should include bottled water, non-perishable food and battery-powered flashlights. 
  • For peace of mind and no power interruption, consider purchasing a whole house generator. A whole house generator like the Cummins QuietConnect will automatically restore your power the moment it goes off.

Convenience checklist: 

  • Stock up on batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.
  • Take inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity.
  • Have flashlights with extra batteries for every household member. 
  • Keep mobile phones and other electric equipment charged and gas tanks full.
  • Weather is the leading cause of power outages in the U.S. Sign up for local weather to stay up-to-date on potential power outages. 

Preparation for power outage part II: During an outage

Safety checklist: 

  • Stay away from any downed power lines or sparking equipment.
  • Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home.
  • Consider avoiding the use of candles. This is due to the fire risk. Use extreme caution if you must use candles.
  • Operate portable generators outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Convenience checklist: 

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Use coolers with ice if necessary.
  • Use a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer so you can know the temperature when the power outage is over.
  • Go to a community location with power if heat or cold is extreme.

Protecting your electronic devices:

  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics. Power may return with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can cause damage.

Preparation for power outage part III: After an outage

  • Throw away any food that might be risky to consume. This includes food that has remained at temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more. Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • If the power is out for more than a day, consider discarding selected medication. This includes medication that needed refrigeration, unless the drug's label says otherwise. If a life depends on the refrigerated drugs, consult a doctor or pharmacist.

Live in a disaster prone area? Additional power outage preparation tips

  • Check your insurance policy. Some traditional homeowner policies don’t cover disasters like flooding and earthquakes.
  • Find out if you're in a flood zone. If so, take immediate steps to get flood insurance. Some policies typically take 30 days to go into effect.
  • Prepare a disaster kit for each member of your household. This includes children and pets. A basic emergency prep kit should include bottled water, non-perishable food, batteries and a flashlight.  
  • Keep a mini prep kit in your child's backpack. 
  • Keep additional supplies in your car in case if you need to evacuate with short notice.
  • Severe weather and power outages often come together. In fact, severe weather is the leading-cause of power-outages in the U.S. Have a plan for backup power. This is to ensure vital medical equipment and appliances like sump pumps stay on during a power outage. 

Have pets? Additional power outage preparation tips

  • Keep a photo of you and your pet together to prove ownership.
  • Have your pets’ vaccinations records and rabies vaccination tag.
  • If you plan to evacuate, know where you can take your pets.
  • Keep extra food available for your pet.

Have a family member with medical needs? Additional outage preparation tips

  • Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines.
  • Back-up medical necessities.
  • Keep at least a two-week supply of medication on hand.
  • Use an ID bracelet or a USB emergency ID band with important contact and medical information.
  • Consider using a back-up power source to ensure vital medical equipment stay on during a power outage.

Have kids? Additional power outage preparation tips

  • Prepare a mini emergency kit for school.
  • Use an ID bracelet or a USB emergency ID band with important contact and medical information.
  • Keep a favorite toy or security blanket with your family.

If you’re looking for further piece of mind, consider a power generator for your house. A whole house generator can provide backup power in case of an unexpected or planned power outage. Cummins home generators are extremely quiet, aesthetically pleasing and remotely accessible.

Information is power

Join for weather preparation and power outage tips, offers and promotions, new product offerings, and remote monitoring software updates.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

How to find a quiet generator for your RV

How to find a quiet generator for your RV

A quiet generator is not a luxury for your RV, but an essential need. 

As you search for a quiet generator for your RV, you have probably looked at various portable and RV generators. You likely saw numbers ranging from 50 to 80 decibels and are wondering how to interpret these numbers. Let’s start with what is quiet. 

What is a quiet portable or RV generator?

Here is an easy way to gauge decibel levels of different generators; a traditional vacuum cleaner generates about 70 decibels while normal human conversation is around 60 decibels. 

Examples on decibel levels

Unfortunately, finding the quietest generator for your RV is not as easy as comparing the decibels denoted in product brochures, since they are not always comparable. To celebrate the launch of our quietest RV inverter-generator sets, Onan QG 2800i and 2500i, we have put together this guide to find the quietest generator for your RV.

How to compare quietness of different portable and RV generators?

Many brands claim to have the quietest RV or portable generator in the market. To some extent, there is truth in this, since there are many ways to measure generator sound and determine how quiet generators are. Consider these

  1. Distance at which quietness is measured. If you measure the noise level for the same RV generator at three feet and 10 feet, the results will be different. Many manufacturers note in product brochures the measurement distance for you.
  2. Load level at which noise is measured. Often, generators produce more noise when working at higher load levels. Comparing two generators’ noise levels when one is working at half load while the other is working at full load could mislead you. Check the product brochure to ensure you are comparing quietness at similar load levels. 
  3. The angle the noise is measured. This one is difficult to compare, because most manufacturers don’t share this information in product brochures. One might measure sound levels in multiple locations, or they might just measure where the noise is lowest. We can’t speak for other manufacturers, but at Cummins we measure the noise levels at seven different angles all around the RV generator, then take the average to denote the noise level of the generator. 

Finally, keep in mind that what size generator you need to power an RV also impacts the quietness of your generator.

Are portable generators more quiet than RV generators?

If you are in the market for a generator for your RV, your two top choices are portable generators and RV generators. RV generators are the ones that come installed within your vehicle. They both have their own advantages and we will cover those separately in another article. 

When it comes to how quiet these generators are, there are a couple things to keep in mind. Manufacturers measure the noise level of an RV generator before installing it in your vehicle. RV manufacturers install these generators in a compartment within your vehicle. This compartment has sound dampening features. Consequently, when you run the RV generator, it will sound quieter than the stated decibel rating.

However, the portable generator has the benefit of being placed away from your RV. This means a portable generator may sound louder outside your coach than an installed RV generator. Meanwhile, it will also sound quieter than its rating inside the coach. Looking at two generators with identical ratings, an installed RV generator will be quieter both inside and outside the coach. Meanwhile, they may both sound similar inside the coach.  

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Aytek Yuksel - Cummins Inc

Aytek Yuksel

Aytek Yuksel is the Content Marketing Leader for Cummins Inc., with a focus on Power Systems markets. Aytek joined the Company in 2008. Since then, he has worked in several marketing roles and now brings you the learnings from our key markets ranging from industrial to residential markets. Aytek lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and two kids.

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