Hackaday Prize Entry: Modular, Rapid Deployment Power Station

After a disaster hits, one obvious concern is getting everyone’s power restored. Even if the power plants are operational after something like a hurricane or earthquake, often the power lines that deliver that energy are destroyed. While the power company works to rebuild their infrastructure, [David Ngheim]’s mobile, rapid deployment power station can help get people back on their feet quickly. As a bonus, it uses renewable energy sources for power generation.

The modular power station was already tested at Burning Man, providing power to around 100 people. Using sets of 250 Watt panels, wind turbines, and scalable battery banks, the units all snap together like Lego and can fit inside a standard container truck or even the back of a pickup for smaller sizes. The whole thing is plug-and-play and outputs AC thanks to inverters that also ship with the units.

With all of the natural disasters we’ve seen lately, from Texas to Puerto Rico to California, this entry into the Hackaday Prize will surely gain some traction as many areas struggle to rebuild their homes and communities. With this tool under a government’s belt, restoration of power at least can be greatly simplified and hastened.

17 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Modular, Rapid Deployment Power Station

  1. Great idea, poor execution. During natural disasters infrastructure is one of the things that will get stolen. After recent floods in Poland few years ago criminals had a great time robbing whatever was left of infrastructure. Most manhole covers, many hydrants and lampposts were stolen by armed gangs. Local police was pretty much powerless until reinforcements arrived three days later.

          1. I whish I could edit/delete that post because it’s not quite right but I’m still curious what exactly the deployment scenario of this system is (assuming a disaster in an developed country).
            1. Supplying an emergency shelter? Aren’t those already equipped with some kind of emergency power?
            2. Supplying a few houses? How do they even connect everything?
            3. Supplying a single house(hold)? …

            I suppose that my be quite different in the developing world but still …

  2. None of the modules look quite weather safe/proof and can only be used in a dessert or similar dry conditions.
    Pretty useless in most disaster areas – i bet you can’t even supply an hospital with this.

    Setting up solar panels and wind turbines seems like a lot of wasted effort in a disaster area, too.
    Just deploy some proper gas/diesel/whatever generators and direct your efforts to rebuilding the infrastructure.

    I ‘know’ disaster relief organizations like FEMA, THW, etc. have the necessary equipment, knowledge and so on…

    The only possible useful scenario I see is if every household in an area has some of these modules. So in case of an disaster the neighborhood can combine the equipment…
    Like a piece of an distributed disaster relief system (which doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me).

    1. I’ve just finished reading the text of the project and they claim “The system, by virtue of the bin design, is also water proof and weather resistant.” – but it does not look quite like that in the pictures provided on the project page.

    1. Yah, fairground or carnival plant too, or from outdoor stage event suppliers, or even mobilise the old vintage ones, down to steam showman’s engines (Though they wouldn’t get there very fast.)

  3. The only issue I can immediately come up with against fuel powered generators is that whole ‘fuel’ bit. With what is suggested in the post you set it up and keep it free-ish of obstructions. You don’t have to keep feeding a generator fuel.
    The only upkeep I can think of for the renewable power system is the batteries over time and make sure pests don’t damage the wiring. The generator will need its oil changed and fuel replaced. I am not saying what has been presented is perfect, but, to my untrained mind it seems a better plan for more rural set ups and for something that can be stored and used when needed. A fuel powered generator seems more logical for an urban setting where land area is at a premium. Only because of a lack of better options to date.

    1. Semi rural guy here, we do actually maintain fuel supplies of our own in many different forms, from fuel silos full of gas and diesel, to propane tanks, and the inevitable wood pile. Urban areas post disaster run through their fuel stocks in short order, as they depend on outside deliveries on a regular and frequent(ish) schedule.

      So, the thing about these is, they are not suited to emergency use, you can see they have unprotected fans in the system, those bins aren’t particularly sturdy, and if it’s not already there, it’s wasteful to transport it to the area, if it is, it’s likely not going to be functional.

  4. My gripe is in Florida solar must be hooked to grid by law and by law if power goes down your solar must be turned off to “protect the linemen” thus like in FL where we loose power with hurricanes like Irma, source for emergency power is outlawed. Circuitry exists to disconnect solar form the grid when there is a power outage but the power companies won the battle.

  5. I was going to build something smaller, like the DEWALT DCB1800B Portable Power Station, with a 1 to 2KW gas generator potentially for when stationed since I’m still running on petrol, so can charge when driving when on the road since can run off the 120W 12V since only pulls 3A max. Doubles as a portable 120V source where if I need to use the 9A electric chainsaw, I can (plus I can keep the generator as the hybrid car without changes to stock… leave the 1-2KW at station). My issue was I bought a pure since wave inverter… though am wondering if I use a starting or running capacitor before the outlet I can get the chainsaw to work… if that isn’t a bad idea even if switched for the chainsaw.

    I almost want to buy one to take apart and return so I can verify what the schematic is, mainly if there is a starting or running capacitor in there. My guess is the wave form and energy savings from pulsing is all… though was wondering if they’re or I can use a capacitor safely. This can be scaled up also with added terminals for a SLA/AGM, et.al. batteries too. I have a feeling I’m going to buy one of the DCB1800’s to hack for more options.

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