New Miniturbine Takes Aim at Microturbine Market

Issue 10 and Volume 105.

By Max Mayer,
Energy Industry Analyst for Frost & Sullivan.

Looking to capitalize on demand for medium output units, DTE Energy Technologies will begin delivering 400 kW miniturbines early next year under the brand name energy|now. DTE Energy Technologies, The Turbo Genset Company of London, England, and Pratt & Whitney Power Systems have partnered to build a 400 kW miniturbine. Unlike vertically integrated Capstone, which built its business from the ground up, DTE Energy Technologies has taken best-of-breed components from several manufacturers and designed what the company terms a miniturbine, capable of generating 400 kW. As a result, DTE Energy Technologies believes it has effectively launched itself onto the microturbine scene with a new marketing approach that the company anticipates will produce annual sales of more than 500 units worldwide by 2005.

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The ENT 400 has been configured to deliver a highly reliable power supply, at the highest level of efficiency. Each generating set is based on a Pratt & Whitney ST5 engine, a derivative of the fully proven PW200 series aero engine used to power various helicopters. To boost efficiency to more than 29 percent, a recuperator is used to capture waste heat from the engine’s exhaust and pre-heat the compressed air leaving the centrifugal compressor before it reaches the combustion section. The power turbine shaft directly drives the high-speed generator systems provided by Turbo Genset, which employ a unique technology that allows high performance and reliability at one-tenth the size and weight of conventional generators of the same power range. Pratt & Whitney has sold 100 ST5 turbines to DTE Energy Technologies for the first batch of production ENT 400 generator sets.

Several potential markets could be served with the miniturbine, including typical distributed generation markets for telecommunications, data centers and commercial buildings. The units are expected to achieve greater cost economies through the process of cogeneration where the exhaust heat of the turbine engine is used for other building processes such as water heating. The economics of micro cogeneration applications are favorable. DTE Energy Technologies, however, will focus on a new market application – the microgrid, which the company expects to account for a majority of sales shortly after market introduction.

The microgrid is a DG model envisioned by Murray Davis, chief technology officer for DTE Energy Technologies. The microgrid consists of several miniturbines to provide baseload capability, perhaps supplemented by one or more internal combustion engines for maximum load following capability, with an optional connection to the power utility. The microgrid concept is described as a virtual utility, where a collection of different power generation technologies are brought together to serve single or aggregated loads to provide quality and reliability superior to that of existing utility systems. A typical microgrid based on the ENT 400 is envisioned to serve a load of one to two MW. From the outset, the design of the ENT 400 package was driven by the ability to operate in parallel with other units in a microgrid.

DTE Energy Technologies is currently developing a microgrid at a facility in southeast Michigan consisting of three ENT 400 miniturbines with an installed capacity of 1.2 MW. The company has a range of distributed generation technologies applicable to microgrids, a concept that the company sees being applied to a wide range of customer needs, including premium power applications, light industrial, for campus-like facilities, and office parks.

Encouraging end users to employ DTE Energy Technologies’ DG solutions is the company’s system operations center (SOC) value proposition. The system will remotely monitor the condition of each miniturbine by way of transmitted performance data. By accessing weather forecasts, local distribution system demand, and real time gas and electricity prices, the SOC can schedule and dispatch generating units, optimizing plant operation and economics. Any DG unit or microgrid operator will be able to connect remotely to the SOC system and receive current performance information. The SOC’s flexibility also enables it to be retrofitted to existing generator sets for complete system optimization.

For more information on this article please contact:
Cynthia Cabral
Frost & Sullivan
Media Relations Executive – Industrial North America
[email protected]