Biogas-fuelled microturbines


For many small digester and landfill sites, microturbines can provide a better solution than the alternatives, which include doing nothing, flaring off the waste gas, using it directly in a boiler, or running it through a reciprocating engine. Of course, many factors determine whether on-site generation is appropriate for a site – and if so, which technology to use. Reciprocating engines are well established in this market and will probably continue to be the technology of choice for many landfill and digester project developers. But there is a growing level of interest around microturbines due to their ability to use low calorific value fuel, their low maintenance requirements, low NOx emissions, modularity and portability.

How New York is showing the way forward for DG

The August blackout in Northeastern US has provided City and State legislators with extra motivation to design and deliver policies to encourage CHP and distributed generation (DG). New York already had the necessary market fundamentals and political leadership, says Tim Daniels, and could now become a vibrant market for DG/CHP.

As California’s self-generation programme and Texas’ liberalized market garner credit for leading the US in integrating distributed generation (DG) systems onto the grid, through quietly and steadily initiated market reforms, one state is now poised to become possibly the hottest market for investment in DG in the US. The long-term trend is bolstered by the facts that New York continues to recover from the unprecedented trauma of September 11, and that this year’s blackout has even further altered its fundamental goals and mindset for regulation and design of the State’s power delivery system.

The catalyst for this power struggle centres on widespread public opposition to construction of new land and submarine transmission lines, as well as large central station power plants notably in New York City. Projects surviving community opposition and regulatory hurdles languished in the hostile financial environment of the post-Enron era. Through this, many investment and business communities outside and within the State are yet unaware of New York’s energy evolution, which represents a unique confluence of focused intent on crafting new, pro-DG/CHP regulations.

New York’s energy market assumptions were upended on 14 August, when 50 million people lost power throughout Northeast and Midwest states. Nowhere was the ‘great blackout’ felt more acutely – or symbolized more effectively – than in New York City as workers evacuated their high-rise offices on foot, subways de-energized, landmarks and theatres darkened, and the metropolis’ dependence on major energy sources and the ageing grid became overwhelmingly apparent.

Post-blackout analysis bore a striking resemblance to platforms debated before the blackout. Common themes focused on fortifying the transmission and distribution system and integrating investor utility transmission systems with deregulated market ownership of baseload generation facilities in the context of regional system operators. What was surprising was how little the media addressed the fundamental challenge to best meet the energy consumers’ needs.


Three basic elements must be present in a market to allow the growth of distributed generation and combined heat and power (DG/CHP):

  • market fundamentals
  • political leadership on regulations
  • an unmet need or crisis in energy markets.

Several states contain two of the three but few, other than New York, achieve the hat-trick.

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