Department of Energy (DOE) secretary Spencer Abraham yesterday announced a $3 million award to Capstone Turbine Corporation for the “research, development and testing of packaged cooling, heating and power systems for buildings.”

The goal of the project, according to a DOE press release, is to “focus on innovative integration of (distributed energy resource) power generation, thermal recovery, and thermally-activated cooling and humidity control technologies.

“Approximately two-thirds of the fuel energy used to generate electricity in the US is wasted in the form of discarded heat,” the DOE press release states. “Distributed energy resources, or DER, refer to small-scale power generation systems located close to the point of use. By productively using DER system waste heat to provide cooling, heating and humidity control in commercial and institutional buildings, these systems can improve overall resource efficiency levels to 70 per cent or greater.”

“Capstone and the companies that it works with have already made great technological strides forward in developing effective and affordable combined heat-power-and-chilling systems. These systems have demonstrated real-world thermal efficiencies ranging from 70 to more than 90 per cent,” said Capstone president & CEO Dr. Ake Almgren. “This award will aid our efforts to develop even better operational economics for end-users by making use of Capstone’s clean, dry exhaust heat on a year-round basis.”

In current applications, exhaust heat from Capstone MicroTurbines has been used to supplement boilers, maintain proper greenhouse temperatures, and to heat water or air, mitigating the natural gas or other fuels otherwise needed to perform these heating tasks. The hot, dry exhaust of Capstone MicroTurbines has also been used to drive absorption and desiccant-based chillers, producing space cooling while reducing demand on the electrical system. This DOE award will fund further integration and optimization of these technologies with the microturbine, with the goal of making them available to a wider array of economic applications.

Last year, Capstone was selected by the DOE to receive a $10 million award, over a five-year period, to develop an Advanced Microturbine System. The target objectives of the Advanced Microturbine System programme are to create a microturbine system that will produce 150 – 200 kilowatts, operate at a fuel-to-electricity efficiency of at least 40 per cent, with NOx emissions of less than seven parts per million.