SACRAMENTO – Utilities are increasingly turning to Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) to avoid starting wildfires during windy conditions. But before turning to diesel or gasoline generators to keep the lights on, California Air Resources Board (CARB) thinks Californians should be aware that cleaner options are available.
The California Air Resources Board now has an online tool that allows consumers to compare solar, fuel cell and other types of generators for residential use to determine what will best serve their needs. The tool also allows users to compare their potential exposure to pollutants and the efficiency of each type of generator. The interactive tool allows users to explore backup power options using different filters, such as running time, maintenance and cost. There’s also an interactive chart that shows the manufacturers that correspond to the filters selected.
Standard gasoline and diesel generators emit a lot more pollutants and greenhouse gas than some other options.
Do generators or cars create more emissions?
Operating a new, average portable gasoline generator (~3.5 hp) at an average load of 1.8 kW for 1 hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving an average passenger vehicle for about 150 miles.
Diesel particulate matter (PM) emissions from an average industrial diesel generator (~800 hp), operating at an average load of ~300 kW for 1 hour, is equivalent to driving nearly 660 miles in an average heavy-duty diesel truck (about the distance from Sacramento to Salt Lake City).
The interactive tool allows users to explore backup power options using different filters, such as running time, maintenance and cost. An interactive chart showing manufacturers and manufacturers’ different features based on those filters also is included.
Using generators in California
California allows for the use of small, CARB-certified generators at any time, though a permit may be required by the local air district, especially for larger diesel generators.
In recognition of the potential for additional PSPS events this fire season, CARB is allowing, for a limited time subject to restrictions, the sale and use of U.S. EPA, 49-state certified generators through December 31, 2019.
For large generators that are 50 horsepower or more, CARB certification is required, and local air districts may require a permit.
During PSPS events commercial operators that bring in generators from out of state should contact their local air district and register the engine with CARB.
Anyone operating a generator should follow all manufacturer guidelines. Only enough fuel for immediate use should be added to the generator’s tank, and the generator should never be stored with unused fuel in the tank when not in use.
CARB also provides general information on generator operations, as well as contact information for California’s 35 air districts. CARB’s website also provides the latest on wildfires, air quality impacts, and tips on how to protect yourself from potentially dangerous smoke.