Technology is mature, says trade group exec for distributed power.
The general reader might receive the false impression upon reading Joseph F. Schuler Jr.'s article on distributed generation that distributed generation is limited to emerging technologies like microturbines and fuel cells (see "Distributed Generation: A 'Hot Corner' for Venture Capital?" Public Utilities Fortnightly, Oct. 15, 1998, p. 40). Indeed, this is a common misconception.
While it is true that these new technologies hold great promise, the simple fact is that distributed generation has been with us for decades, and the most widely used technologies for DG involve mature technologies that are very affordable and environmentally friendly.
The most common form of new generation in the United States today involves aeroderivative turbine technology fueled by natural gas, distillates or biogas. What most people don't realize is these turbines aren't just for central generation or independent power plants. Mid-sized aeroderivative or industrial turbines in the 5- to 10-megawatt range, for example, are a choice technology for industrial on-site generation, particularly for combined heat and power projects, where energy efficiencies can reach the 80 to 90 percent range. The installed price of mid-sized turbines ranges from $300 to $870/kilowatt, with operating and maintenance costs of just 0.2 to 0.8 cents/kilowatt-hour.
Advanced turbine systems, which will be available in the 4- to 5-MW size in 1999, increase the efficiency of electric generation, with expected electric production of less than 3 cents/kWh. These systems can also be used in a combined heat and power operation.