Green Machine may lower power costs
Tanana Chiefs Conference and the University of Alaska Fairbanks have completed testing of the Green Machine, a heat-to-power generating system that can reduce diesel fuel consumption and lower energy costs for rural Alaska communities.
The Green Machine captures excess heat from small, distributed hot water sources, such as diesel engine jacket water, biomass boilers and geothermal sources, to generate up to 65 kilowatts of emissions-free electricity. In the case of rural Alaska villages, heat from the diesel generators in the local power plant can be captured and utilized in the Green Machine to boost power output. ElectraTherm of Reno, Nevada produces the Green Machine, the first of its kind in Alaska.
UAF Alaska Center for Energy and Power research manager Brent Sheets said testing data shows that the Green Machine, in ideal conditions, could generate more than 413,000 kilowatt-hours a year, with round-the-clock daily operation.
“This displaces nearly 11,000 gallons of diesel and, with fuel costs in excess of $5 per gallon throughout rural Alaska, represents an annual savings of $50,000 or more,” he said.
Jerry Isaac, president and chairman of Tanana Chiefs Conference was encouraged by the results.
“Every village in rural Alaska has a power plant, and every one of those diesel generators is running round the clock. Heat is going out the exhaust stack and radiating from the generator itself. If we don’t recover that heat and use it, it is a wasted resource,” Isaac said. “The Green Machine is a way to use that recovered heat to improve efficiency and lower electricity costs for our tribes and villages.”
TCC and ACEP tested the Green Machine in a laboratory setting at the main heat and power plant on the UAF campus.
“We appreciate the opportunity the UAF power plant gave us to set up in their facility and utilize their heat sources. By keeping the heat source at constant temperature in a controlled environment we are establishing the baseline efficiency of the unit,” said Chuen-sen Lin, professor of mechanical engineering at UAF and the lead researcher on the project.
Following the completion of this successful laboratory test UAF and TCC will install the Green Machine in a rural power plant for real-world testing and are presently evaluating options for installing the unit in a village in the TCC region.
The Denali Commission, Alaska Energy Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation funded the Green Machine project, which is part of a jointly sponsored rural energy program between ACEP and TCC. In place since 2009, the partnership matches the public service mission of TCC with the technical and engineering expertise of ACEP to achieve sustainable energy solutions for the 42 member tribes of TCC.