This is a summary from the presentation by the same title by Mark Rabin, Founder and CTO at Portable Electric, at the Future of Electrification 2023 conference. Watch the full session here:
Mark Rabin, Founder, and CTO of Portable Electric, gave an insightful presentation at the Future of Electrification 2023 conference that highlighted the benefits and challenges of battery energy storage systems in various industries.
According to Rabin, battery energy storage systems have the potential to transform a wide range of industries, from film production to construction and emergency response. When the company started in 2018, Portable Electric targeted the film and entertainment industry with their products. They found a market pull in the industry, since it aims to be a leader in sustainable production, and pioneer clean energy solutions. Portable Electric has worked with major studios and rental companies and their equipment has already been used to great effect, saving thousands of dollars per week and allowing for more flexible shooting locations. Their equipment has been used while filming major productions, including James Bond. During his presentation, Rabin emphasized that Portable Electric’s customers are the real innovators who find new applications and solutions using their equipment.
Rabin mentioned that another significant market for Portable Electric's products is the construction industry, where the electrification of equipment such as scissor lifts and excavators provides a significant opportunity for growth. However, he acknowledged that price sensitivity and resistance to change are challenges that must be addressed for the technology to be widely adopted. Despite these challenges, he is enthusiastic about the potential for battery energy storage systems, foreseeing a future with fully electrified construction sites. While he acknowledged that hybrid systems and diesel-powered equipment will still have their place, he emphasized the importance of maximizing energy efficiency and reducing fuel consumption.
Hybridization is also a good option, especially for off-grid scenarios where power is required on-demand 24 hours a day, added Rabin. Portable Electric’s energy storage systems can be combined with existing diesel generators. This approach allows for optimized generator usage, reducing runtime and emissions. Rabin showcased a project where generator runtime was reduced by 93%, resulting in a safer work environment and minimizing toxic emissions. He also mentioned the potential for hybridization with solar power, envisioning construction sites with solar-lined work site trailers charging the units and creating microgrid-like applications.
Rabin also highlighted disaster relief as an interesting market, however, he noted that it is challenging due to long sales cycles and specific requirements. Portable Electric’s equipment has the potential to play a crucial role in disaster-stricken areas where conventional power sources are disrupted. By offering off-grid power solutions, their equipment can provide immediate and reliable electricity for various purposes. For example, Rabin discussed how their units have been deployed in areas affected by wildfires and hurricanes, offering backup power to sustain essential medical appliances and institutions such as food banks. Portable Electric has also collaborated with governments and municipalities, including the City of Vancouver, to install their systems in emergency response pods. The versatility of Portable Electric’s equipment allows for its deployment in diverse settings and its ability to function off-grid and in different environments makes it a valuable asset in providing power where it is most needed, even in remote or hard-to-reach areas affected by disasters.
Rabin added that Portable Electric also ventured into the e-charging and mobile electric vehicle (EV) charging industry in 2021, following the increasing demand for EVs and other electric equipment. He highlighted the need for a new fast charging protocol to facilitate charging during short breaks, such as lunch or coffee breaks.
Portable Electric's products include the VoltStack 5k, which became their flagship product, along with the 30K system and a mobile EV charger. These units are versatile, and designed to be robust and safe. They can be charged from various renewable sources, such as solar, generators, grid power, or even pedal power.
Portable Electric's equipment is designed with the capability to be fully charged by solar power, allowing it to operate indefinitely without relying on traditional power sources. Rabin highlighted the potential of solar power as an important source of energy for the future. He emphasized Portable Electric’s commitment to sustainable and off-grid power solutions. He shared an example of their equipment being used at Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert, where it was covered to protect it from the sun and dust. The units used were fully off-grid and powered 100% by solar energy, showcasing the capability of their equipment.
Rabin emphasized the importance of safety and uptime in the development of Portable Electric's products. They utilize certified components and undergo certifications like Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) to ensure the safety and reliability of their systems. He also discussed their efforts to collect and analyze data from their equipment, utilizing real-time telemetry and telematics to monitor and optimize performance. This data allows them to provide reports to their customers, showcasing carbon offset, usage, location, and various other parameters. This data-driven approach is essential for understanding how customers are using the equipment and identifying areas for improvement.
One of the most significant challenges in introducing new technology, Rabin noted, is dealing with human behavior and resistance to change. However, he believes that finding easy wins and building trust with customers is key to success. While the technology and its adoption are still in the early stages, Rabin expressed optimism about its future. He emphasized the importance of collaboration among various stakeholders, including utilities, charging infrastructure providers, and software developers, to ensure the success of this transformative technology.
Rabin's presentation at the Future of Electrification 2023 conference highlighted the potential of battery energy storage systems in a variety of industries, as well as the challenges that must be overcome in order to achieve widespread adoption. Portable Electric's focus on safety, uptime, and data-driven innovation positions the company well for continued growth and success in this rapidly evolving industry. As battery energy storage systems become more widely adopted, they have the potential to transform the way we work and live, creating a more sustainable and efficient future.