Environmental Permitting

Emergency Generators—Should You Buy, Rent, Share, or Borrow?

It’s a decision you have to make based on the needs at your facility. Do you want the headache of maintaining an on-site emergency generator or the headache of scrounging around for one should the need arise?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has offered some tips for water/wastewater systems on just this subject that could apply to any facility facing this decision.

Many factors affect the decision to buy, rent, borrow, or share a generator. Funding, maintenance requirements, rental availability, and mutual aid and assistance agreements should all be considered. If you are sharing, who gets the generator first? In making the decision, you can consider the advantages and disadvantages of having a generator on-site (purchase) versus obtaining a generator off-site (rent, borrow, or share).


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Pros and Cons of Purchasing an On-site Emergency Generator

Pros:

  • You own the generator.
  • You have immediate start-up during a power failure, as it’s already at your facility and ready to go.
  • You are familiar with the generator and its operation.
  • The generator can be any size to fit the operational needs of your facility.

Cons:

  • Well, you own it. The up-front capital investment can be costly.
  • Long-term maintenance is required.
  • A disaster that damages your plant may also damage your generator.

Pros and Cons of Renting/Sharing/Borrowing an Emergency Generator

Pros:

  • Because you don’t own it, there is no large up-front capital if rented. If you co-purchase the generator, the cost is shared with other facilities.
  • You have some flexibility in where you get the generator from. You could have multiple sources and be able to bargain for a price.
  • You have either shared or no long-term maintenance costs.

Cons:

  • You don’t own the generator.
  • There may be travel time delays to get the generator to your site, especially if roads are impassable.
  • It may require special equipment (e.g., crane) and / or extra personnel (e.g., electrician) to install.
  • In a big natural disaster or power grid failure, it may be hard to locate a generator because of competing demands.


EPA’s Proposed NAAQS Rule for Ground-Level Ozone: What It Means and How to Prepare coming Thursday, August 13, 2015. Register now to learn what to do now to prepare for the EPA’s proposed NAAQS rule for ground-level ozone.


Note. Whatever decision you make, once you have determined your backup power needs, the EPA recommends that you communicate those needs to your Local Emergency Planning Committee or emergency management director. This allows them to be aware of the generator resources that you already have (if any), what generator resources you will need during a power emergency, and any priority environmental or public health aspects related to power loss at your facility.