Gaia - finalist 2017
Energy consumption across a day is typically 50% on battery and 50% on direct solar
The orange is power from the sun, and the blue from batteries which kick in at night time
Gaia Group capitalises on clean power production
Winning the Costain Intelligent Infrastructure Challenge (IIC) 2017 urban category award for its hybrid power generation system Solatainer was a welcome surprise for Gaia Group as the system, at the time of the event, had only been used on a few sites
Created from a single-use 20-foot ISO shipping container, Gaia Group's Solatainer supports a PV array specified for maximum solar gain and efficiency and is designed as an alternative renewable power source to conventional diesel generators.
By harnessing the Sun's rays and utilising an optional wind turbine, energy can them be stored in the system's on-board battery and converted to AC power via an inverter. Developed to provide an autonomous off-grid power supply, the Solatainer system integrates renewable-power and storage with diesel-power back-up, providing silent, emission-free power to gantries and cameras on the UK's road and motorways networks. The standby generator is configured to run only when batteries are depleted below a software-set limit or when a demand spike occurs.
"Winning the IIC award has really helped us gain traction in the industry and specifically the Highways sector," says Gaia Group sales director Mike Robbins. "We now have orders coming in weekly from the A14 integrated delivery team (which includes Costain, Skanska and Balfour Beatty) across many parts of the site."
Robbins says he was also invited to present, alongside with Costain's group carbon manager Lara Young at the annual Costain Supply Chain conference in April of this year. Young describes Solatainer as a "great innovation". It enables Costain projects and sites to effectively manage their power requirements while reducing fuel consumption and associated air pollution, she adds, "reducing a project's carbon footprint and significantly reducing the number of fuel deliveries to and from site which is a great safety co-benefit".
IIC judge Adrian Ulisse, director of sales and business development at Inrix UK, describes Solatainer as "a fantastic idea", while Young asserts that the use of Solatainer technology "is a great testament of Costain's sustainability objectives of reducing our impact on the environment and effectively managing and reducing our carbon emissions and resources".
Since November last year Gaia Group has introduced a number of additions to its Solatainer product range, including: a three-phase unit, which is powering a goods hoist with Osborne on the M25 Connect Plus contract; a trailer-mounted mobile unit and, most recently, a CHP model with a heat exchanger. An example of this latest version of the Solatainer, which uses water for storing heat and is currently on hire on the A14 too, where it is predicted to save approximately £20,000 when compared with a conventional system, not to mention a carbon reduction of more than 150 tonnes.
In addition, an optional turbine unit is at the testing stage, and an innovative inflatable PV mounting system Solawedge, designed for rapid deployment across unprepared land or water, is scheduled to hit the market later this year. Designed specifically for operation in a broad range of environments - from deserts to waterlogged fields - Solawedge is scale-able up to 50kW. Its standard set up comprises a 4kW PV array, 6kW/h battery pack and 6kW stand-by generator, and can be operational within two hours of arrival on site.
"And watch this space," says Robbins, "for an LPG version, an urban version and a smaller model."