Spotlight on Generators

At the International Builders' Show, one represents the latest in off-grid technology while another provides power to the exhibit space.

Two innovative power generation systems will be on display this year at the American Natural Gas & Propane Industries Exhibit (W3129).

The first is the latest in off-grid technology by Generac Power Systems of Waukesha, Wis. Their EcoGen 6 kW, a low-cost, long-life generator that's been designed specifically to back up renewable energy systems that rely on the sun or wind to supply the majority of a home's energy needs. But even the best designed renewable energy system falls short at some point: on wintry, overcast days; at times when the wind dies down. Another common denominator among off-the-grid systems has been a jury-rigged backup generator. According to Scott McCaskey, director of new business development at Generac, "all the generators that are currently out there [with off-grid systems] are misused, come with no warranty, and in many cases are not safe."

That's why the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) helped fund Generac to develop the EcoGen 6 kW, the only automatic standby generator engineered specifically for off-grid applications.

"It was designed from the ground up for off-grid use," says McCaskey. "At 52 decibels, it's the quietest generator we've ever manufactured, and it has an oversized oil reservoir, which means it can go 500 hours between maintenance intervals." It's engineered to run from 10 to 15 hours a week. By comparison, most standby generators are designed to run just 10 to 15 hours a year—usually during power disruptions.

The second system is the ecopower microCHP system developed by Marathon Engine Systems. As it did at last year's IBS, the unit on display at the Exhibit will actually supply power to the show booth. Any excess energy produced will be sent back to the Convention Center.

Combined heat and power systems (microCHP) is an established, environmentally friendly technology that is well established in Europe and gaining traction in North America. The concept of CHP is simple but compelling: A liquid-cooled internal combustion engine generates heat that is pumped through a heat exchanger and subsequently used for domestic use, most often heat and hot water. In addition, a generator is driven by the engine and provides power for on-site electrical consumption. With a microCHP system, powered by natural gas or propane, 92 percent of the energy is utilized to produce heat and electricity.

Both the EcoGen unit and ecopower microCHP system will be on display at the American Natural Gas & Propane Industries Exhibit (W3129) from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 12–14 and from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 15.

Generac Power Systems also has their own exhibit at booth W3729.


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