Solar power has many applications, from residential to commercial and portable micro solar for personal devices. It has also been used in remote areas to support mining operations and in the field for small devices such as electronic speed signage along roads.
Another application is in trailers or shipping containers when combined with battery storage for portable, clean energy systems. Sesame Solar, based in Jackson, MI, manufactures portable solar power and energy storage systems for emergency situations or work scenarios where they provide mobile power. (Their technology integrates hydrogen power as well.) The company states on its website that its portable nanogrids can be set up quickly on location.
Sesame Solar’s CEO and co-founder, Lauren Flanagan, spoke to CleanTechnica about its technology.
What is a mobile nanogrid and how does it work?
Sesame Solar’s Mobile Nanogrids are grid-independent energy structures that look like construction trailers or shipping containers on a flatbed truck. This means the Nanogrids can be easily transported to areas that have been impacted by a natural disaster or power outage.
Each Nanogrid is fueled by solar power, green hydrogen and battery storage, offering weeks of energy autonomy by combining these complementary forms of renewable energy generation and storage in a closed-loop, carbon-free, reliable system.
The Nanogrids are intentionally designed for multi-use case scenarios and can double as facilities for mobile clinics, offices, emergency response centers, mobile retail pop-ups, remote military applications and more. Each Nanogrid can be tailored to a community’s specific needs and power essential community functions after a disaster strikes.
After a natural disaster, communities go an average of 52 hours without power. That’s why Sesame Solar Nanogrids were designed to be set up by one person in 15 minutes and start generating power immediately.
In 2022, the U.S. experienced 18 separate weather and climate disasters costing more than $140 billion. We’re proud that our solution is 100% fossil-fuel free, as opposed to diesel generators which further contribute to the climate crisis. We’re proud to break the cycle and decarbonize renewable disaster response as we face more climate-related disasters.
Who can use this technology and what is the cost?
Our Nanogrids can be used by anyone that needs access to reliable and renewable backup power. Our primary use case is disaster response, but our Nanogrids can also be used to power EV charging, telecommunications, media and entertainment and more.
The cost per unit is $100,000 – $350,000 depending on the Nanogrid configuration However, the Nanogrids qualify for 30% tax credits/direct payments per the IRA, and if deployed in disadvantaged communities or Tribal Nations, there are adders increasing tax credits/payments up to 50%.
How is solar integrated into it and how much solar capacity is there?
The solar arrays are installed on the side panels of the Nanogrid. With our patented technology, you can simply “Open Sesame” and the side panels are electronically unfolded to face the sky and start generating power. The solar capacity ranges from 4-20 kW.
Does each mobile nanogrid have its own energy storage, and if so, what is the kWh?
Yes, each Nanogrid contains a battery to capture the energy generated by solar and green hydrogen energy. Depending on the configuration, Nanogrids can produce between 3-20 kW of power, with total battery storage of 15-150 kWh.
What kind of situations are your mobile nanogrids used in?
Primarily, our Nanogrids are used to restore power and restore essential services after a natural disaster. Here are a few examples of how our Nanogrids have been used by our customers:
We worked with Comcast to deploy Nanogrids to Louisiana after Hurricane Ida, setting up in Home Depot parking lots to provide victims with emergency services, a pop-up retail store for new phones, power for large trailers of showers and toilets, and power for WiFi vans.
Comcast also deployed the Nanogrids to Fort Myers, FL in response to Hurricane Ian to power trailers of toilets, showers, laundry and more. The Comcast Crisis Center Nanogrids served more than 300 people per day–first responders, Comcast employees and residents.
Cox Communications continues to deploy Nanogrids after extreme weather events, power outages, or other emergencies to provide communications and mesh networks in company and business customer parking lots to keep teams connected.
The Ministry of Public Health for Dominica uses two Nanogrids to back up a large hospital and a remote medical clinic in Grand Fond. The Grand Fond Nanogrid also filters rainwater, providing 130 gallons of potable water per day, refrigeration for medicines, WiFi and workspace for patient triage and visiting pharmacists/doctors.
The US Air Force uses Sesame Solar Nanogrids as Mobile Medical units and Command and Security units for remote missions such as recovering a downed aircraft.
Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services is using Sesame Solar Nanogrids powered by solar and green hydrogen for Mobile Community Power after wildfires, floods and power outages and for events and community education in non-disaster applications.
Is the technology warrantied, and if so, what is the warranty?
The Nanogrids have a 1-year warranty, and we pass along component warranties that range from 5 to 20 years.
How is a mobile nanogrid transported?
Sesame Solar Nanogrids are easily transported by forklift, truck, train, ship, plane, or helicopter. The Nanogrids can be hitched and pulled by a ¾ or 1-ton truck. We recently bought a Rivian truck to tow the Nanogrid to further limit the emissions from our operation and we have a Level 2 charger onboard our demonstration Nanogrid providing a 100% fossil fuel-free solutions.
When it is operating on location, what does it rest upon to be stable?
The Nanogrids can be placed right on the ground in a parking lot and there is no permit or additional installation needed. If they are going to be semi-permanent (movable during emergencies but otherwise in one spot) we recommend installing a cement pad.
How can your mobile nanogrid support clean water production?
The energy from our Nanogrids can be used to purify and deliver clean water to communities in need. A Nanogrid can easily provide up to hundreds of gallons of potable water per day depending on the water source and distance. The Nanogrid powers the pump to bring the water from the source, then powers multi-stage filtration and UV filtration.
What about communications?
Yes! Our Nanogrids keep communications online by generating emergency power on-site or by powering mobile WiFi stations where it’s needed most. We include a 5G mesh network for community use, and can include First Responder networks such as AT&T’s FirstNet and Verizon’s FrontLine Cell on Wheels (COW). The inside of the Nanogrid can also be outfitted as a mobile office with tables and chairs that are ideal for a communications center.
What is your company’s vision for the next three years?
We aim to be the first company to offer a new business model: Mobile, Renewable Power as a Service, (MRPaaS), which will enable governments and large organizations to have the power and services they need, when and where they need them, on a multi-year subscription basis. This will also allow us to expand into new verticals.
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