Cuenca.- The gas stations of the future are being designed in the present. The slow but growing hybridisation of the mobile park will reach these points where some of the traditional gasoline or diesel pumps begin to cohabit timidly with recharging points. The Spanish Association of Petrol Products Operators (AOP) in its most recent study of the sector indicated, in any case, that the number of petrol stations had increased to over 11,600 throughout the country. A high percentage of these stations present serious problems in walking towards this hybridisation because their ability to respond energetically to the new demand is very limited. However, a small town in Cuenca (Spain) has the technological response that can save this stumbling block and make the gas stations move towards electric mobility with total guarantee.
Hybridisation and transit to electric charging or refueling means that the energy needs of the service stations themselves change substantially and present a higher demand for electrical power to meet the “fast and simultaneous charges of several vehicles”.
And the reality of gas stations in Spain is that a high percentage lacks the energy capacity not to serve electric vehicles but to be able to even respond to their most essential needs. Many were built decades ago with a basic infrastructure that barely served a small office for the collection and operation of the pumps themselves. That led to a basic installation and hiring enough power for their attention. But over the years, those facilities have been expanding and adapting to the new time. They extended with restaurants, then with courtesy shops and even with recreational areas for children and adults.
What has caused that growth? That the once solvent electrical installation has become obsolete and has to take into account other solutions (electric equipment fuelled with diesel, mostly) to meet the need for power from the gas stations and to avoid cuts in supply at times of greatest consumption of the installation. Thus, it provides solutions to the increase in consumption but by rising costs significantly and emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere. This is not sustainable over time. The logical alternative is to modify the electrical installation and extend the supply contract with the relevant energy operator. However, depending on where the gas station is located the cost it entails is difficult to amortise for the civil work that has to be undertaken since it would mean throwing a new line.
Marking the way
In the province of Cuenca, in the town of Noguera de Pozoseco, its service area is a pioneer in providing an effective, efficient and sustainable response to this problem. It is an example of one of many service stations that have been growing and growing until one day the energy could not stretch any more.
In this case, besides, its starting point was cruder since, although it was newly constructed and due to its particular geographical location, it did not have an electricity supply grid and its main source of energy was exclusively a generator.
The manages, aware of this, put themselves in the hands of ER-Ingeniería (Villarrobledo, Albacete) to study alternatives that would make their business project viable and guarantee the necessary fuel supply service in the area. Analysing the possibilities of the market they found the answer they look for in the innovative technological proposal of ZIGOR Corporación (Vitoria, Álava), an expert company in efficiency, distribution and energy storage.
“We have designed and built the first electrical supply system completely isolated from the grid, capable of covering 100 % of the electricity consumption, to provide electricity uninterruptedly to a service area, with dispensers, restaurant, cafeteria, shop and rest area, and even three chargers for electric cars (one of them of the fast type)“, said Manuel C. Rojas, President of ER-Engineering. This installation is capable of providing an electrical power supply of 500KW/h/day.
Following the intervention, this service area has three sources of power generation: A 200 KVAS generator with automatic start (to cover demand peaks and cloudy days); a photovoltaic installation of 160 KWp solar panels mounted on a car park designed exclusively for this purpose; and 1000 KW/h storage batteries. “And the great innovation it observes is the implementation of a programmable autonomous system that optimises the performance of the three aforementioned sources and which, in addition, is scalable since, in the face of a higher energy demand in the future, it can be easily expanded with the parallel installation of new intelligent equipment that control all time the energy source to be used. This allows it to grow and grow with more solar panels without the need to consume more diesel, or even reduce it, while increasing its power capacity for electric power for vehicles, installations, etc.“ said Iñigo Segura, CEO of ZIGOR Corporación.
The entire installation is controlled by its own software, which controls all charges, generator set management, surveillance and in-depth recharging of the batteries. It also analyses, measures and records all solar radiation data, temperatures – both modules and environments – and checks that solar production corresponds to these measured values. Through the application from the mobile, the data are visualised and with a very intuitive graphic the evolution can be easily observed according to the hours instantly.
What is the solution?
It is a compact system that in a single cabinet integrates two energy sources (photovoltaic and generator) and contemplates the management of the storage in batteries of these two sources plus that of the conventional power grid (which in the case of Cuenca did not even count on it) making the most efficient source come into play at every moment and saving the excess energy for when necessary its consumption. In this way, nothing is lost and everything is taken advantage of.
According to the Basque company’s own calculations, the installation of this technology system could record average savings of around EUR 30,000 per year for a service station that consumes 150 kW.
The system, in addition, is designed so that, making use of artificial intelligence, it can predict the consumption of the service station and establish optimally which energy source is the most recommended at every moment.
It is a sustainable and socio-economic cost-effective solution for thousands of service stations that, like the one located in Cuenca, require rapid responses to the situation posed by the market. The installation of an equipment of these characteristics, due to its configuration and dimensions, requires hardly any building work beyond that necessary for the equipment of solar panels. It is very versatile and each unit manages up to 150 kW, which for the real needs of a medium-sized filling station is more than enough. For large installations several systems can be paralleled and this management can be extended to the required kilowatt hours.
Greater decision-making power
This system, whose installation and commissioning takes place in days and hours, respectively, is called to play a leading role in the deployment of fast-charging power systems in service stations, both in those with little grid connection (for the reasons mentioned above), and in those that (with no problem of expanding supply) bet on alternative energies such as photovoltaics and which, thanks to the possibilities offered by this installation, do not need to extend their contract with their distributor.
Spain currently has 11,609 filling stations.
54.3 % is in the hands of large oil firms (6,300 points, approx.)
45.7 % corresponds to white brands, cooperatives and hypermarkets (5,300 points, approx.).
Between 40 and 50 % of the total service stations are in a similar situation to that of the service area of Cuenca (with little or poor power grid connection) and are susceptible to installing an intelligent system such as the one described: smart, autonomous, high-profit investment and environmentally sustainable.