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Microturbine Generators

1. INTRODUCTION
As energy demands increase and the associated costs increasing with demand, newer
energy alternatives are becoming more important to society and also consumers want an
uninterrupted and economical electric power. Recently, distributed generation (DG) has become
an attractive method of providing electricity to consumers and retailers. In addition, from the
viewpoint of economic feasibility, the costs of installing generators and producing the electricity
can be comparatively inexpensive using the DG method.
One of DG sources is Microturbine Generation systems. Microturbine generator systems
are those generator systems equipped with small combustion turbines approximately the size of a
refrigerator with outputs of 25kW to 500kW.They operate at a high speed generally in the range
of 50,000 to 120,000rpm.Electric power is produced in the range of 1400-4000Hz.They are most
suitable for small to medium-sized commercial and industrial loads. The microturbine provides
input mechanical energy for the generator system which is converted by the generator to
electrical energy. The electrical energy is later converted to normal supply frequency and passed
through the transformer, is delivered to the distribution system and the local load.

Fig 1.Block diagram of a microturbine generator system

The microturbine generators come under the Distributed Energy Resources. Device
category. Those devices enable renewable energies utilization and more efficient utilization of
waste heat in combined heat and power (CHP) applications and lowering emissions. Unlike
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traditional backup generators, microturbine generators are designed to operate for extended
periods of time and require little maintenance. They can supply customers base-load
requirements or can be used for standby, peak shaving and cogeneration applications.
As microturbine generators dont have reciprocating parts, there is no need of lubricating
and all. Some microturbines even utilize air bearings and air cooling, thereby completely
eliminating the need to change and dispose of hazardous liquid lubricants and coolants. In any
case, microturbines are similar to major power plants, able to run for extended periods at full
power output, and require little scheduled maintenance compared with traditional reciprocating
engine generators of similar size. This makes them ideal for stationary prime power applications.
The combustion process in a microturbine is continuous and clean burning, similar to modern
gas turbine power plants. Microturbine manufacturers have deployed state of the art lean-burn
combustion technology to control emissions without the need for expensive catalytic exhaust
treatment equipment or chemicals.

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Microturbine Generators

2. MICROTURBINE GENERATOR
Microturbine generators(MTG) are small, high speed power plants that are usually
include the turbine, compressor and power electronics to deliver the power to the grid. These
small power plants typically operate on natural gas. Future units may have the potential to use
lower energy fuels such as gas produced from landfill or digester gas. Microturbine generators
are classified into two types:
Unrecuperated (simple cycle) microturbine generators.
Recuperated microturbine generators.
2.1 UNRECUPERATED MTG
In a simple cycle or unrecuperated systems the compressed air is mixed with fuel and
burned under constant pressure conditions. The resulting hot gas is allowed to expand through a
turbine to perform work. Simple cycle MTGs have lower efficiency at around 15%, but also
lower capital costs, higher reliability and more heat available for co-generation applications than
recuperated units.
2.2 RECUPERATED MTG
Recuperated units use a thin sheet-metal heat exchanger that recovers some of the heat
from an exhaust stream (1,200F) and transfers it to the incoming air stream, boosting the
temperature of the air stream (around 300F) supplied to the combustor. Further exhaust heat
recovery can be used in a co-generation configuration. The fuel-energy to electrical conversion
efficiencies are in the range of 20 to 30%. In addition, recuperated units can produce 30 to 40%
fuel savings from preheating. Depending on the microturbine operating parameters, recuperators
can more than double machine efficiency.

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Microturbine Generators

3. TECHNICAL BACKGROUND
The entire microturbine generator system can be divided into three primary sub-systems:

3.1 Mechanical
The mechanical system comprises the turbine, generator, compressor and recuperator.
The compressor-turbine package is the heart of the microturbine generator system. They are
commonly mounted on a single shaft along with the electric generator. Two bearings support the
single shaft. The microturbine generator system produces electrical power via a high speed
generator turning on the single turbo-compressor shaft. The high-speed generator of the singleshaft design employs a permanent magnet (typically Samarium Cobalt) alternator, and requires
that the high frequency AC output (about 1400Hz-4000Hz) be converted to 50Hz for the general
use. They operate at cool, clean, low-vibration, environment and offers 160,000 hours of normal
service.

Fig 2. Internal view showing the parts of an MTG Block

3.1.1 Generator/Gearbox
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The standard Power Works (NRECs microturbine) package incorporates a single-stage


helical gear set to transfer power from the turbine to the 3600 RPM generator. The low-torque,
highsliding- velocity results in exceptional design-life margins. At the conditions specified for
the PSOFC, the gear and bearing life exceed one million hours.
A commercial 2-pole 3600 RPM induction generator is standard with the Power Works
package, and for a production version of the proposed system would be the probable choice. The
manufacturer predicts a B10 life of 160,000 hours for normal service. The generator has been
conservatively selected and operates in a cool, clean, low-vibration environment. For cold
weather and extended peaking-power operation, a higher power rated generator can be provided.
An optional synchronous generator can also be substituted for grid-isolated operation, as
proposed in connection with the current experimental program.
3.1.2 Combustor
The combustor proposed for the integrated PSOFC package would be a modification of
the standard patented Power Works (NRECs microturbine) design, originally developed in 1990
in collaboration with SoCal Gas. It has consistently demonstrated NOx levels below 9ppmv, with
exceptionally good turndown stability and proven durability.
Departure from the standard Power Works (NRECs microturbine) design is needed to
limit combustor pressure loss during unfired operation. Combustor inlet temperature under these
conditions will be in the vicinity of 1600F, whereas the current running condition is around
1200F. The design change needed to accommodate this difference is straightforward, and is
roughly a matter of increasing the effective flow area of the combustor.
3.1.3 Recuperator
Recuperator is a heat exchanger which transfers heat from the exhaust gas to the
discharge air before it enters the combustor to reduce the amount of fuel required to raise the
discharge air temperature to that required by the turbine.

3.1.4 Turbine
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There are two kinds of turbines, high speed single shaft turbine and split shaft turbines.
All are small gas turbines.

Fig 3. Isometric view of an MTG

3.2 Electrical
The electrical system includes main control software, inverter and power firmware.
3.2.1 Engine controller
Engine controller is a digital system which controls the entire process of the microturbine
generator. They provide the provision of automated starting and all. And we can set the delay
using this system. They will also locate the fault occurred and perform the safety functions &
speed can be controlled. Engine controller will reduce the power output produced if the engine is
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running near its maximum permitted temperature. They also have the ability to interact with the
other parts of the generator control systems.

3.2.2 Power Conditioning System


We know the power output of a microturbine generator will be between the frequency
ranges 1.5-4 kHz. For our usage it must have to be converted to the useable standard mode.

Fig 4. Simplified diagram of a power conditioning system

The power conditioning system converts the unregulated, variable-frequency output of


the generator into a high quality, regulated waveform. The waveform quality surpasses the
general utility standards and is suitable for supplying sensitive equipment. Output voltage and
frequency are adjustable between desirable ranges, allowing the system to be easily configured
for the operation anywhere.
We know that the electrical output from the MTG will have a frequency in the range of
1,400-4,000Hz. The high frequency power from the generator is introduced into an inverter
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where it is converted into dc before the inverter followed by it can reconstruct a three-phase
voltage supply at a lower frequency required for the grid connections.
In the figure, we can see that an MTG feeding 3-phase power to a rectifier and the dc is
then fed to a high frequency, a single-phase inverter so that a compact, high frequency
transformer can be used. The secondary of the transformer feeds an ac/ac converter that takes the
single phase, high frequency voltage to produce a 3-phase voltage at a frequency and phase
needed to make a direct connection to the grid.
The circuit has following advantages:
The use of a transformer for robust isolation.
The high frequency inverter permits the use of compact, high frequency transformers.
The use a transformer permits the easy addition of other isolated loads and supplies via
additional windings and taps.
The circuit eliminates the need for static transfer switches.
Ancillary services can be provided with control software changes and additional
hardware.
Adding additional hardware is easier.
3.2.3 Power Controller
They are mostly on-board, pc-based, a processor linked to pc, etc., depending

on

constraints and factors such as MTG packaging, desired versatility, type of available features,
and the sophistication/maturity of the system design. A power controller control and co-ordinates
the operation of the power conditioning circuit by ensuring that the functions such as voltage
following, current following, phase matching, harmonic suppression, etc are performed reliably
and at high efficiency.

3.3 Fuel system


Microturbine generator have fuel flexibility and are capable of using alternative fuels
including natural gas, diesel, ethanol, landfill gas and other bio-mass derived liquids & gases.

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The microturbine generators are fitted with fuel boosters which reduce the fuel consumption. For
2 kW power, the machine consumes only 25 icfm.

Fig 5. Complete view of an MTG

4. WORKING
Mechanically the microturbine generator is a single shaft gas turbine with the entire
compressor, power turbine and the permanent magnet generator being mounted on the same
shaft. The power turbine drives the generator which produces the electrical power and speed of
rotation of this power turbine is from 50000-120,000 rpm.
During engine operation, air is drawn into the compressor unit through an air filter. The
air filter will filter out unwanted components in the air. The compressor unit will then compress
in taken air and raises its pressure to a heavy value. The high pressure air then is introduced into
a recuperator arrangement where the heat exchanging process takes place. Inside the recuperator,
the exhaust air from the turbine after burning the fuel, possessing a temperature around 650
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Microturbine Generators

degrees Celsius will then transfer the heat to the compressed air and thereby increase the
temperature by 200 degree Celsius.

Fig 6. Figure illustrating the working of an MTG

Now, the hot air is passed into the combustion chamber. Simultaneously the fuel which is
also get compressed in a gas compressor is introduced and mixed with high temperature air and
due to this burning of fuel will occur, producing high temperature gas or steam. This gas is then
taken into the power turbine by means of a nozzle. As a result the thermal energy holding by the
gas is used effectively to rotate the turbine to high speed.
Thus the generator which is coupled to the turbine wheel is get rotated and eventually the
electrical power is produced at higher frequencies which is later get regulated.

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Fig 7. Working processes

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5. MACHINE PERFORMANCE TESTS


Various tests have been performed on a microturbine generator to evaluate its
performance, maintenance requirements and all.
5.1 Endurance Test
In this test program, microturbine generator will be operated as long as practicable at
normal load. Daily operating parameters such as fuel flow, air pressure, temperature, humidity,
power produced, operating temperature and pressure are noted & verified.
5.2 Transient Response
Microturbine generator should be capable to respond adequately to load changes. For the
units that are not capable to operate on isolated bus will operate parallel with system grid.
Changes in the system load will be picked up by the grid and noted by microturbine generator
units. Load changes on these microturbine generator units will be accomplished by manually
setting load using a control system arrangement.
5.3 Noise Measurement
Ambient noise levels will be measured using a handheld noise meter. Each unit will be
operated independently to acquire the noise measurements during operations, it is found that the
microturbine generator have the least noise level as compared to other generator sets and is
around 63 db.
5.4 Emission measurement
The exhaust of the microturbine generator is subjected to emission tests. Additionally, periodic
measurements with available handheld equipment would be made to determine trends and any
condition of degradation that may occur with operating hours.
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Microturbine generators have the least NOx emission, which is the main factor behind the
global warming. The amount of NOx emitted is only 7ppm whereas it is too higher for the
conventional generator sets. A microturbine generator will produce only .564 kg of CO2 per kW
of electricity. Thats why we prefer this technology of power production.
5.5 Peak Load Gross and Net
Peak load gross and net measurements will be taken with a BMI meter or equivalent
recorder that measures power. For units without compressors, or compressors that are externally
powered, the net output must be determined by subtracting the external power requirements to
sustain MTG operation. Results of this test will yield performance characteristics such as
efficiency, heat rate, fuel consumption and operating hours. Comparisons will be made to
manufacturer specifications.

6. ECONOMIC ASPECTS
The capital cost for a microturbine generator is estimated as 700-1000 $/kW which
include all the hardware, associated manuals, software and all. Adding heat recovery increases
the cost by 75-350$/kW. Installation costs vary significantly by location but generally add 3050% to the total installed costs.
Microturbine manufacturers are targeting a future cost below 650$/kW. This appears to
be feasible if the market expands and sales volume increases.
With fewer moving parts, microturbine vendors hope the units can provide higher
reliability than conventional reciprocating generating technologies. Manufacturers expect that
initial units will require more unexpected visits, but as the products mature, a once-a-year
maintenance schedule should suffice. Most manufacturers are targeting maintenance intervals of
5,000-8,000 hours.
Maintenance costs for microturbine units are still based on forecasts with minimal reallife situations. Estimates range from $0.005-$0.016 per kWh, which would be comparable to that
for small reciprocating engine systems.
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Table 1
ECONOMICS OF AN MTG
Type of cost

Cost(in dollars)

Capital cost
Operational & maintenance cost

$700-$1000/kW
$.005-$.016/kW

7. CHARACTERISTICS OF AN MTG
7.1 Aesthetics

Improves sightlines and views with off-the-grid systems, which eliminate the need for
overhead power lines.

7.2 Cost-Effective

Enables cost savings by reducing the peak demand at a facility, therefore lowering
demand charges.

7.3 Functional

Provides better power reliability and quality, especially for those in areas where
brownouts, surges, etc. are common or utility power is less dependable.

Provides power to remote applications where traditional transmission and distribution


lines are not an option such as construction sites and offshore facilities.

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Can be an alternative to diesel generators for on-site power for mission critical functions
(e.g., communications centers).

Possesses combined heat and power capabilities.

Reduces upstream overload of transmission lines..

Optimizes utilization of existing grid assetsincluding potential to free up transmission


assets for increased wheeling capacity.

Improves grid reliability.

Facilitates faster permitting than transmission line upgrades.

Can be located on sites with space limitations for the production of power.

7.4 Productive

Provides high-quality power for sensitive applications.

Responds faster to new power demandsas capacity additions can be made more
quickly.

Facilitates less capital tied up in unproductive assetsas the modular nature of


microturbines means capacity additions and reductions can be made in small increments,
closely matched with demand, instead of constructing central power plants sized to meet
estimated future (rather than current) demand.

Stand-by power decreases downtime, enabling employees to resume working.

Produces less noise than reciprocating engines.

7.5 Secure/Safe
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Strengthens energy security.

Stand-by power provides quick recovery after an event.

7.6 Sustainable

Produces the lowest emission of any noncatalyzed fossil fuel combustion system.

Has a small footprint, minimizing site disturbance.

Reduces or defers infrastructure (line and substation) upgrades.

For recuperated microturbine, possesses higher energy conversion efficiencies than


central generation.

Enables more effective energy and load management.

8. ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES


7.1 Advantages

MTG has small number of moving parts, therefore maintenance is comparably less.
It has compact size.
Most of the parts are light weight.
Good efficiency.
Low emission & less noise and vibration than reciprocating systems.
Can utilize waste fuels.
Strengthens energy security.
Cheap and easy installation.
Wide range of benefits in terms of operational and fuel flexibility, service
performance and maintainability.

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Microturbine Generators

7.2 Disadvantages
Low power output & efficiency with higher ambient temperatures
Time-variable electrical and thermal demand distorts MTGs energy balance
sometimes leading to larger fuel requirement.

9. APPLICATIONS
Microturbines can be used for stand-by power, power quality and reliability, peak
shaving, and cogeneration applications. In addition, because microturbines are being developed
to utilize a variety of fuels, they are being used for resource recovery and landfill gas
applications. Microturbines are well suited for small commercial building establishments such
as: restaurants, hotels/motels, small offices, retail stores, and many others.

1. MTGs are excellent power generators for use in combined heat and power (CHP) systems.
Their low maintenance and clean exhaust make them a reliable choice for base load CHP
applications. Integrating hot water heat recovery into the microturbine package has proven cost
effective, and a growing number of commercial installations are saving money using this
technology. Not only do microturbines provide this cost saving performance day in and day out,
but their value is further increased when the cost for traditional backup generation is eliminated.

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By considering the CHP system installed in Radisson Hotel in Santa- Maria, California,
we can examine effectiveness of MTG based systems.
Two C60-ICHP systems are installed at the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria, California. In
this application, the hot water output is used for several different purposes. One use is for
domestic hot water for the hotel guests. This thermal load is highest in the morning, and then
increases again later in the day. A second use is for laundry service. This is highest during the
working day. The third use is for building heat. This load is seasonal and steady during the day
when outside temperatures are low.
The two C60-ICHP systems are set to operate in parallel with the electric grid, and
Electric Priority mode is used. In this CHP mode, the electric power output for each microturbine
is set at the desired level. For this Radisson hotel with 188 rooms, electric power is normally set
for maximum from each microturbine during the day. This is below the buildings peak electric
demand, and power does not flow back into the electric utility grid. While the microturbines
work to maintain their programmed electrical outputs, the exhaust diverters automatically adjust
to accommodate the changing thermal requirements of the hotel. This example shows how the
flexible control capabilities of the C60-ICHP allow simple integration with a building with
changing thermal requirements.
The two C60-ICHP systems are set to operate 24 hours per day. The operating scheme
was selected to match the thermal requirements of the hotel, provide the maximum electric
energy, and reduce time-of-use demand charges from the local electric utility. This results in
maximum financial benefit to the hotel, and helps to offload the utility when power is needed
most by other customers. Powerhouse Energy supplied the ICHP systems to the hotel and
managed the installation, system start-up and continuous operation.
ICHP application qualified for the states PUC Self- Generation Incentive Program rebate
of 30% on the total installed cost. The expected energy savings are very good, with a calculated
average savings of about $5,528 a month or $66,336 per year. This savings to the hotel is net of
natural gas, projected lifecycle maintenance costs, and project financing. Total installed cost was
$185,000. The operating availability of the ICHP systems, including start up, commissioning,
and service response time has been better than 95% to date.
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2. Another example of CHP system is Capstone microturbine installation at Inns of America in


Carlsbad, California, was completed in August 2002 by California Power Partners (Calpwr). It
included a Capstone C60 with fuel gas booster and separate hot water heat recovery module. As
for the Radisson, this microCHP system provides both thermal and electric base load for this
hotel. Energy savings were estimated at 40%. This lowered the daily per room energy cost by
$4.00 a significant portion of the hotels profit margin.
While this installation is saving the hotel owner money every day, there is a unique
attribute that provided even more value than anyone envisioned when the decision to purchase
this system was made. The hotel owner decided to purchase Capstones dual mode version
microturbine, with the capability to provide power even when the electric utility is not available.
The logic was to avoid the cost of a traditional backup generator, thereby improving the
economics of this project. Such traditional diesel backup generators are designed and permitted
to operate only for short periods of time in case of a utility outage. But microturbines certified by
the California Air Resources Board can operate continuously without the need for local air
permits.
In October of 2003, Southern California was ravaged by multiple wildfires that lasted
days and crippled the state with huge property and personal losses. Carlsbad, where the hotel is
located, and the nearby San Diego region were especially hard hit. Power lines were shut down,
and many homes and businesses.
During this time, the Inns of America lights remained on, powered by the Capstone
60kW microturbine. In support of the local community, the Inns donated a number of rooms for
people who, and the Inns of America became an emergency base of operations for several
groups. The result for the hotel was increased business and a strengthened relationship with the
community things that were never directly considered in their original decision to install a
microCHP system.
3. McDonald's restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, gets most of its electricity from a natural-gaspowered microturbine, cutting $1,500 off its total monthly power bill.
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4. The Chesapeake Building on the University of Maryland campus, College Park, Maryland has
a cooling, heating, and power (CHP) system consisting of microturbines, chiller, and stack that
uses waste heat to cool and heat the building, significantly increasing system efficiency.

Fig 8. Chesapeake Building CHP system, University of Maryland

10. CONCLUSION
Thus this new scheme of power generation is having ample importance in the present era
where we are paying a great attention and care for environment friendly power generations. The
power generation using a microturbine is becoming popular in North America, Europe because
of its ecofriendly nature along with descent power delivery on considering both efficiency and
economics.
MTGs continue to find economic application in a growing market.
Integration of hot water heat recovery, absorption chilling, and backup power functions makes
for simple solutions that save money and increase power reliability, with the added social
benefits of clean emissions, reduced greenhouse gas production, and more efficient use of our
limited natural resources. The development of microturbine technology for transportation
applications is also in progress. Automotive companies are interested in microturbines as a
lightweight and efficient fossil-fuel-based energy source for hybrid electric vehicles, especially
buses.

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Other ongoing developments to improve microturbine generator design, lower costs, and
increase performance in order to produce a competitive distributed generation product include
heat recovery/cogeneration, fuel flexibility, and hybrid systems (e.g., fuel cell/microturbine,
flywheel/microturbine).
Manufacturers are moving toward packaging MTGs with integrated heat recovery
equipment to lower both the cost of installation and operation. Moreover, this is a clean source of
electrical power.
A variety of energy consumers that are already using MTG due to its high reliability &
low operating cost, neglecting its high initial cost.
Undoubtedly this technology will conquer the energy sector in the near future, on
considering the present environmental scenario.

11. REFERENCES
1. D.K.Nicholas & Kevin.P.Loving, ASSESSMENT OF MICROTURBINE GENERATORS,
IEEE 2003.
2. Amer Al- Hinai & Ali Feliachi, Dynamic Model of Microturbine Used As a Distributed
Generator, West Virginia University, 2006
3. Stephanle.L.Hamilton, MICROTURBINE GENERATOR PROGRAMME, Hawaii Intnl.
Conference on System Sciences, 2000.
4. Microturbine Power Conversion Technology, R.H.Staunton & B.Ozpineci.
5. Capstonemicroturbine.com

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