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Technology | February 2014

Engine technology to drive efficiency

The need for power generators is increasing day-by-day. PJM Khan discusses the usage of generators and the challenges that the industry faces.

There is substantial need for fuel-efficient generators (gensets) in India to bridge the gap between demand and generation. The need for temporary power gensets in India is increasing because the captive power plants help people keep electrical power production and profitability growing while delivering valuable time and cost savings. The power generation applications for utilities include: supplementing or increasing power generation capacity during periods of high demand, temporary power during planned maintenance or unplanned outages, peak shaving, power for construction and commissioning new capacity, rural electrifications in remote areas and islands.

Diesel generators are widely used in places where grid is not available or as emergency backup power source for home or business if the grid fails. Depending on size, these diesel generators can be used for small loads, such as electric tools, and for large loads like factories, commercial buildings, hospitals, etc. Because of the high cost of standby diesel systems, these diesel generators are used primarily in industrial and commercial applications. Private homes more often use natural gas or propane models that generate electricity for less.

Diesel generation standby systems are widely used as emergency backup systems. Diesel generators are probably the only type of gensets that can reach rated power within ten seconds of a power failure. The recent diesel price increase will raise more than just your gas bill it´s likely to bump up your apartment maintenance charges, public transport costs, and even the cost of daily staples and vegetables. Earlier this month, India announced a formula to allow oil companies to increase diesel price periodically for individuals, and ended all subsidies for bulk users. Some suburbs are regular for long stretches of power blackouts, specially the cold regions where people use diesel for generators that provide back-up electricity or to generate heat via heater connected through the diesel generator. Other flip of the card is, even shopping mall operators may have to raise rents for shop owners, because the malls also rely on diesel generators for power back-up. In the outskirts of Mumbai and Delhi, there are power supply cuts of up to six hours a day and in summer months that goes up to 10 hours a day. The dependency on generators itself is milking the industry. Some of the industries are already incurring huge losses due to nearly 16 hours of daily power cuts. Most of the production is carried out with the help of generators. However, the diesel price hike is going to over burden the industries and traders and the production cost would again go up.

In 2007, the fuel price was approximately Rs 35 per litre which increased to around Rs 40 per litre by the year 2010, later increased to Rs 50 per litre by 2011 and today the price is Rs 60 plus per litre. There has been a drastic rise in the price of diesel so far. The government has ruled out a one-time price increase for diesel and said it would persist with the ongoing gradual increase of 50 paisa a litre per month. There could be a case for raising the monthly increase to Rs 1 a litre.

The Indian diesel generator set market is well-organised and highly competitive. The market can be broadly divided into three segments namely the small diesel generators, medium diesel generators, and large diesel generators. Chronic power shortages and prolific growth in industries, infrastructure, telecommunication, information technology (IT), and IT-enabled services triggered market growth. One of the major drivers in the market is the increasing energy deficit. The gap between demand and supply of energy is widening, giving rise to the need for localised power generator. Many residential users, industrial users, and commercial users depend on generators for uninterrupted power supply. In particular, the market is experiencing huge demand for low power range generators.

One of the major challenges in the market is the option of alternative energy generation. Solar energy, wind energy and other forms of renewable energy are becoming increasingly popular among industries for power production in the country. Engine technology has a very important role to play in India´s generator market. For example, CRDi (Common Rail Direct Injection) technology makes the diesel engine run like a gasoline-powered one. It's fast, quiet and economical, while maintaining the diesel engine characteristics of higher pulling power, In the CRDi unit, a tube also called common rail connects all the injectors and contains fuel with high pressure. The injectors have controls, which allow a very precise dose of diesel into each cylinder. The on-board computer makes sure the fuel is injected at the right time. This ensures lower emissions, makes the engine extremely responsive, and gives better fuel economy. India has also advocated the introduction of more stringent emission norms proposed by the Central Pollution Control Board. These revised norms will make it mandatory for engine manufactures to adapt technological changes in the engines to meet these norms. The generators should ideally be small in size, lighter in weight, quieter in noise, lower fuel consumption, less in maintenance cost, low voltage fluctuation, good in block loading and CPCB compliant. CPCB II has been introduced.

The author is General Manager Business Development and Performance Support, Cooper Corporation, a manufacturer of diesel generators, gas engines, etc.

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