Powering Construction Sites – Your Options

Have you ever wondered how construction sites get power when there are no electrical outlets available? You may think that all the equipment runs on diesel or gasoline, but that’s not the case. While the larger pieces of machinery, like dump trucks, pavers and bulldozers, do run on fossil fuels, smaller equipment, like lights, trailers and certain power tools, require a constant supply of reliable electricity. In order to provide all the needed power at a construction site, general contractors often use large, often transportable power supplies, like generators, temporary solar panel installations and even the existing municipal power grid.


Construction site

Photo credit: Ged Carroll


Types of Construction Equipment and Buildings that Need Power

Generators can be used to provide power to all types of temporary buildings and construction machinery that needs electricity to operate. Equipment, machinery and buildings that often need power include:

  • Drop lights and large exterior light poles
  • Electric heaters
  • Electric power tools
  • Industrial fans and ventilation equipment
  • Large and small trailers for administrative tasks
  • Temporary and permanent cabins or trailers for housing construction workers (heating, lighting, appliances) in remote locations
  • Large construction machinery that needs an external power source for start-up


Construction Site Power Options

When it comes to getting power for construction sites and all the machinery and tools needed on the site, contractors have several options, including setting up temporary solar grids, hooking up to the power lines or using generators.


Hooking Up to the Power Grid

For small projects located within the city limits and next to power poles, it may be possible for the contractor to connect to the existing electrical grid, which can supply a steady stream of power for construction machinery and tools. This is accomplished by making arrangements with the electric company prior to the start of the project. In this scenario, the power company sends a technician to the site to provide temporary power poles, wires and outlets as well as a temporary electric meter or other equipment to monitor and bill for electric usage.

Unfortunately, joining the existing power grid isn’t always possible. This is especially true if the construction site moves, like in the case of roadways and railways, or if the site is located in an extremely remote area that doesn’t have utility poles nearby. In addition, if the construction site has strong power demands, it could put a drain on the local grid while the act of hooking up can sometimes cause disruptions to the line.


Temporary Solar Panel Installations

When connecting to the grid isn’t feasible, a temporary solar panel installation may be able to provide the needed power. Solar panel installations are environmentally friendly and a great way to reduce carbon emissions and lower fossil fuel consumption. Once the solar panels are in place, they can be used to charge certain power tools and operate large and small pieces of machinery.

However, solar panel installations don’t work well if the construction company primarily works at night or if more power is needed than the solar panels can produce. When this happens, the construction company must use generators.



When construction companies need lots of reliable, portable power, generators are often the answer. Generators can be purchased or rented for use at construction sites that are located within the city limits, on roadways and in remote locations. They work by using a fuel source – typically diesel – to operate a motor. The mechanical energy created by the operation of the motor is then turned into electricity through the process of electromagnetic induction. While this may seem like a complicated process, it simply means that fuel goes into the generator, and the output is usable electrical current that can be used to power construction equipment and tools. There are a range of available generators depending on the power requirements of the job.

  • High-Powered Generators – Able to produce between 200kW and 2,500kW of power. Great for large pieces of construction machinery and equipment that requires large amounts of start-up power. These are great for large construction sites, like those needed for new commercial and residential construction and transportation projects.
  • Medium Powered Generators – Able to produce between 5kW and 200kW. These generators are great for construction projects that involve building a single home and neighborhood roadway projects.
  • Portable Generators – Able to produce various power levels, depending on the size of the generator. These are great for large construction sites where a single large generator can’t reach all the construction areas, including the construction of new neighborhoods and large multi-story buildings.

Generators can also be used as a backup source of power throughout the site, standing in for temporary grid power, solar panels or for other generators should they malfunction or run out of fuel.


Locations that Need Constant Power

Construction projects sometimes take place in extremely remote areas and areas that can be subjected to extreme weather, especially snowy and icy conditions. In order to keep the project moving forward and keep workers safe, generators are needed in order to supply constant power to construction and safety equipment.


Remote Areas

Extremely rural and remote areas still need to have good roadways and certain buildings, like gas stations, convenience stores and rest areas, and in order to build these structures, the contractor needs a constant supply of power at the correct voltages to keep the project moving forward so that it is completed on time and within the pre-bid budget. Large, medium and portable generators can provide the power needed to start large and small power tools. Not to mention, construction sites are becoming more technologically advanced with laptops, computers and tablets. This means that a trailer is often needed to provide a base of operations and to keep the project organized. Power generators can be used to provide the electricity needed to operate computers and keep laptops, cell phones and other portable electronics charged.


Extreme Weather

Construction projects are often needed in areas that have extreme weather conditions. This can include dangerously cold temperatures, snow and ice. In order to keep machinery and tools running and the workers safe, portable trailers and tents with heat are often needed to ensure the construction equipment starts and that workers can retreat into a warm space in order to avoid hypothermia and cold-related injuries. Large, medium and portable generators can be used to provide field heating at the construction site as well as power electric heaters inside trailers and tents.


How Generators Help with Construction Site Productivity

Construction projects often have predetermined timelines that were developed during the bidding and planning phases of the project. Once construction starts, the contractor is held liable for any delays and cost overruns. One of the ways contractors ensure they complete a project on time and safely is with the use of generators.

While the primary use of the generated electricity may be to power equipment and tools, it’s not the only reason construction crews have portable power. Electricity-producing generators can be used to power large lighting systems for indoor and outdoor projects that require working at night or underground. This not only helps complete the project on-time, but also allows workers to see where they are walking so that they do not accidentally run into equipment or trip over objects.

If the project involves working underground or in areas without proper ventilation, the generators can be used to pump breathable air into the work area and ventilate stale air and exhaust gases. If the site is in a damp or unheated area, the generators can be used to power dehumidifier and electric space heaters for worker comfort and safety. By utilizing generators, you are improving your productivity on the project and helping to reduce the potential risk for worker’s compensation claims.


To learn more about how a generator can help you with your construction project, give us at Worldwide Power Products a call at 713-434-2300 or use our contact form. We provide power generation equipment for dozens of industries, including years of experience powering busy construction sites.