Interview: Sunbelt Rentals and the role of energy storage in rental

The term BESS is becoming increasingly common in discussions about powering everything from municipalities to jobsites and even homes. Companies such as Volvo Penta, Mitsubishi Power and others have introduced their own solutions while local power companies have gotten into the game as well. It makes sense that equipment rental companies are getting involved in their own way. To find out what that looks like, we spoke to Mark Wilton, director, sustainable energy - power & HVAC services with Sunbelt Rentals.

Sunbelt Rentals BESS Sunbelt Rentals offers BESS which are mobile on their own trailers, or, in most cases, can be delivered as skid-mounted units; 24kW with 90 kWh, 30kW 150 kWh and 75 kW 600 kWh. (Photo: Sunbelt Rentals)

Battery Energy Storage Systems, also called BESS, are a technological solution that uses batteries to store and distribute energy in the form of electricity. Commonly used in electricity grids and in other applications such as electric vehicles, solar power installations, and smart homes, BESS is gaining attention and focus from municipalities, manufacturers and even equipment rental companies. 

At its most basic level, a BESS consists of one or more batteries that store electrical energy for use at a later time. This stored energy can then be drawn upon when needed to meet various demands for power across different applications.

Because BESS offers advantages over other energy storage systems - including greater efficiency and flexibility, faster response times when powering equipment or devices, and lower costs overall - it’s a sensible solution that can be a natural for equipment rental inventories. 

“Battery energy storage is increasingly in demand for a variety of applications including utilities, factories, decentralized microgrids and mobile charging stations,” said Hannes Norrgren, president of Volvo Penta Industrial, which introduced a modular and scalable solution for integration into manufacturers’ BESS applications one year ago.

What role can equipment rental companies play in meeting the demand for BESS? Mark Wilton, director, sustainable energy - power & HVAC services at Sunbelt Rentals, gave us his perspective.

Rental Briefing: How exactly does BESS work?

Wilton: These units offer a way to manage power delivery by storing energy and then delivering the amount of energy that is required, when called for. Batteries can be utilized by customers

Sunbelt Rentals BESS In addition to renting the equipment assets, and the service we provide, EMaaSTM includes monitoring and reporting by use of telematics. (Photo: Sunbelt Rentals)

requiring power, utilizing a standalone BESS, or with one or more generators, forming a microgrid.

In some cases, these units can be paralleled to multiply the kW and kWh capacity. When BESS are used in conjunction with a generator, the batteries carry the load until depleted to a set ‘state-of-charge,’ then the generator will replenish the charge of the battery. In this instance, there is a significant reduction in generator run time and optimization of the load carried by the system, which is better for the generator fuel consumption and overall CO2 emissions.

Rental Briefing: What does Sunbelt Rentals offer in terms of BESS solutions?

Wilton: Sunbelt Rentals offers BESS which are mobile on their own trailers, or, in most cases, can be delivered as skid-mounted units; 24kW with 90 kWh, 30kW 150 kWh and 75 kW 600 kWh. The kW is the maximum output, the kilowatt hours is the nominal energy stored in each battery. We also have a portable version available with 5kW 7 kWh of energy.

As a rental provider, we aim to provide correctly sized equipment for a sustainable, turnkey solution for each application. Additionally, an example of how Sunbelt offers efficiencies is with EV and E-equipment charging, by including BESS within these solutions.

Rental Briefing: Who is the primary target customer?

Wilton: Any customer who is currently utilizing temporary power can benefit from BESS. There are some customers and certain market segments who are early adopters of this technology as they are focused on decarbonization goals. Some of these include construction companies where customers are large enterprises expecting to lower emissions, the film and tv industry, as well as many commercial companies.

Rental Briefing: Has this opened up a significant revenue stream for Sunbelt?

Wilton: Providing the optimal energy solution for our customer’s needs at every phase of their project is what energy management as a solution (EMaaSTM) aims to do. In addition to renting

the equipment assets, and the service we provide, EMaaSTM includes monitoring and reporting by use of telematics. Our customers expect optimal performance, by watching data we can calibrate settings on site, and collate intel for their CO2 reduction reporting needs.

Rental Briefing: What challenges are there when renting this type of equipment to customers?

Wilton: Our main challenge is also an opportunity to familiarize this new technology with our customers and to educate them on how to reliably utilize BESS within temporary power solutions.

Rental Briefing: Where do you see the future of jobsite energy solutions and how does Sunbelt fit in?

Wilton: Batteries are just a part of our roadmap to providing cleaner energy solutions. Battery technology is proving to be core to the future of how customers reduce carbon emissions, using data and offering energy controls is key, and we see renewable energy and fuels playing a strong role, especially for higher capacity and constant load needs.

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