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Plug It In. Charge It Up. Welcome to the Electrified Construction Site.

Sept. 21, 2023
Using electric equipment and battery energy storage systems can help construction projects reduce carbon emissions, save money, and cut down on harmful machine noises.

2023 logged the hottest month on record in July. Extreme weather events have become more intense over the past 20 years due to rising global average temperatures. Climate scientists agree that cutting carbon dioxide emissions needs to happen on a massive scale in order to slow the planet’s warming.

Worldwide, construction machines produce about 400 megatons of CO2 emissions annually — around 1.1% of global CO2 emissions. Construction industry leaders have started thinking about how to reduce the carbon footprint of construction sites, both to meet their customers’ sustainability goals and to contribute to the effort to slow climate change.

When it comes to construction machines, that means tapping into energy storage systems, reducing fuel consumption, and deploying electric equipment.

Pilot Project Studies Use of Energy Storage Systems

A recent pilot project in Minnesota explored the use of battery energy storage systems in conjunction with generators as a potential solution. For the pilot, Sunbelt Rentals partnered with a large construction company and the owner of a planned large-scale data center.

The project owner wanted to determine if adding battery energy storage system units to generators addressed sustainability concerns well enough to justify the rental cost. The six-month pilot program evaluated a combination of generators and BESS units, judging success by how well this hybrid setup helped cut fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

To supply the power required during construction of the data center, Sunbelt Rentals provided a total of fifteen generators. The 56-kW generators helped meet demand during peak usage but dropped back during low loads. The 20-kW generators are common for infrastructure applications. However, in many cases — including this project — there are times during the day when these units are called to provide much lower kilowatts.

However, running a generator 24/7 results in high fuel costs, poor energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, and intense, almost constant noise. Generators can burn considerable diesel fuel and need frequent refueling along with servicing about every 300 hours. Additionally, the associated noise level ranges from 75 to 85 decibels — equivalent to working next to a lawn mower. For much of the day and most of the night, generators run inefficiently at low loads.

Sunbelt Rentals added a BESS to each generator, creating a hybrid solution. This configuration helped reduce generator size, runtime, and fuel costs, as well as overall emissions. Meanwhile, the silent power gave everyone from construction workers to local residents a break from the noise.

During the six-month pilot period, power management with BESS not only contributed to the project’s sustainability goals but also helped the parties involved realize significant time and cost savings, including:

Generator Runtime Savings

●      Hours saved: 39,825

●       Percentage saved: 82%

Preventive Maintenance Savings

●       Gallons of oil saved: 400

●       Preventive maintenance services avoided: 130

●       Hours of service work saved: 400

●       Preventive maintenance service cost savings: $43,521

Fuel Use Savings

●       Fuel saved: 34,026 gallons

●       Percentage saved: 82%

CO₂ Savings

●       Emissions saved: 231,305 kg

●       Percentage saved: 88%

This partnership allowed the contractor to reduce diesel fuel needs, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and drastically cut service hours and trips made. These changes saved time, money, and emissions while supporting infrastructure needs for thousands of workers at the jobsite.

Applying the Pilot Project’s Results to New Builds

Sunbelt Rentals took the pilot project’s data and applied it to another Midwest data center build by Turner Construction, the country’s leading green builder and general contractor. In addition to BESS units, Sunbelt Rentals provided a wide variety of electric equipment, including Ford Lightning pickup trucks, electric boom lifts, electric scissor lifts, and hybrid excavators.

“Sustainability engineering is about driving sustainability performance during construction — carbon emissions, materials on-site, potable water used, and green building documentation — and it all trickles down to me on the worksite,” said Mike Bahr, sustainability engineer with Turner Construction. “With Sunbelt Rentals’ background and knowledge of product performance, they helped lead us through what electric equipment would be a good fit and what was available for our timeline. They have subject matter experts that we don’t have, and they can really suss out the best solution.”

Bahr credits Sunbelt Rentals’ extensive portfolio and solution-oriented approach to the project’s success.

“Sunbelt Rentals has contacts with the OEMs, they know the availability, and they have the product knowledge that allowed us to go much deeper than we could have on our own,” Bahr said.         

Electric Equipment Keeps Construction Quiet

Sustainability practices extend beyond carbon reduction to include worker health and safety practices, such as noise abatement. Employing BESS units and electric equipment cuts down the noise level to the benefit of both construction site workers and neighbors.

The Future Is Electric

Sunbelt Rentals has invested over $500 million in equipment focused on helping their customers reduce construction site emissions. The company’s comprehensive solutions include getting power — both temporary and charging — to the jobsite and electric equipment to reliably get the job done. Contact Sunbelt Rentals to learn more about how to electrify your construction site.

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