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Big Power Sometimes Comes in Small Packages

Key Points
  • Natural gas-fueled microturbines generate heat and power for a wide range of facilities.
  • Advantages include lower energy costs and emissions, as well as a small footprint.
  • When an absorption chiller is combined with a microturbine system, cooling is provided.

Sometimes smaller is better. Facilities around the country are finding that out after they install natural gas-fueled microturbines for backup or onsite power. Typically classified in size from 25 kW to 500 kW, demand for global microturbine installations is expected to have double-digit growth, reaching $250 million by 2021, according to MarketsandMarkets.

MicroturbineIn addition to lower energy costs, potential benefits include:

  • Fewer emissions without requiring exhaust after-treatment
  • Few moving parts, reducing maintenance
  • Long service interval—around 8,000 hours
  • Fuel flexibility, including biogas and flare gas
  • Durability and reliability
  • Long life—between 15 and 20 years
  • Group operation for increased capacity and redundancy
  • Low noise and near-zero vibration for sensitive installations
  • Smaller footprint for installations in multiple locations or on the roof

Microturbine installations: big success stories 

As the following examples show, applications cut across a wide range of industry segments:

Data centers. Six 60-kW microturbines provide power security to a Houston data center at an engineering and construction company. At an aerospace company nearby, a microturbine is the prime power source for its data/telecom systems.

Healthcare. A medical center in New York center installed eight natural gas-fueled 65-kW turbines on its roof to make the best use of space. The system produces 520 kW of electricity, as well as hot water for the 398-bed hospital.

Lodging. After a Philadelphia hotel installed three microturbines on the roof, the hotel reduced its energy cost by more than $80,000 within the first two months. The system provides all of the building's domestic hot water and 15 percent of its heating demand.

Manufacturing. A New York insulation plant installed three 65-kW microturbines to generate heat and hot water for the bathroom and kitchen areas. A central Ohio cheese maker installed a 65-kW microturbine, which runs on methane gas produced from recycled wastewater. The company saves more than $40,000 per year in electricity costs.

Wastewater A New York wastewater treatment plant installed a microturbine cogeneration facility, annually saving $110,000 in utility spending.

Organizations investing in microturbines realize that for every dollar saved on energy, a dollar can be invested in other projects, whether these be equipment upgrades, facility renovations or improving patient care.

Image: U.S. Department of Energy

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