Many companies dont realize that they can generate their own power on-site and in a cleaner and more cost-effective way.

The Importance of Fuel Flexibility

Darren Jamison | Capstone Turbine


Please tell us a bit about Capstone microturbines and why they are important in the energy mix of the future?

Capstone microturbines are clean-and-green power generation systems that can play a role in keeping on-site power both reliable and affordable. Capstone was the first to market with its patented high-efficiency air-bearing technology, which doesn’t require any oil or lubricants to operate. Capstone microturbines can run on a wide variety of fuels, allowing businesses to save on their energy costs and maintain flexibility in a changing power landscape. Microturbines can serve as in-house electrical and thermal power plants for businesses as diverse as hospitals, hotels, office buildings, data centers, manufacturing facilities, universities, wastewater treatment plants, landfills and oil and gas operations.

Why is fuel flexibility critical as we continue to use nonrenewable resources?

Capstone microturbines can run on many types of fuels including natural gas, propane, diesel, methane, butane, kerosene and associated gas—almost anything with a BTU content that burns. In an age of diminishing natural resources, the kind of fuel flexibility presented by microturbines is critical because many different kinds of businesses, in order to maintain and grow their bottom line, must be able to generate power in the most efficient and financially prudent manner. Many companies don’t realize that they can generate their own power on-site and in a cleaner and more cost-effective way. Some companies assume that when they move into a building or facility they must purchase power from the local utility. The reality is that Capstone microturbines can often generate power at a significantly cheaper price per kWh than what businesses pay their utility.


Is adapting to one type of renewable energy an important step toward improving the environment and encouraging the population to decrease its carbon footprint? 

Companies are often unaware of the benefits of utilizing a renewable fuel source for on-site power generation. Helping these companies to realize what renewable energy options are available is a vital step in educating the populace about reducing carbon emissions and improving their surrounding community. One of the interesting benefits of Capstone microturbines is that they offer a cutting-edge solution that can be integrated into a wide range of industry sectors and in a wide range of applications, essentially turning “green waste” products into usable electricity. Because our technology can convert this waste into usable fuel, Capstone is able to deliver a cutting-edge product for distributed generation. The question is no longer, “How are we going to dispose of this waste?” but rather, “How much power can we generate?”

What are some of the best applications for microturbines? How much power can they provide?

Capstone offers a comprehensive lineup of clean-and-green microturbines that are scalable from 30kW to 30MW. As we operate in six different market verticals, microturbines are proven to be ideal in several types of applications. For example, microturbines can be used in all phases of oil production including upstream, midstream and downstream operations in both onshore and offshore applications. They can be utilized as a critical power supply or uninterruptible power source, delivering reliability and performance when needed most. By incorporating an anaerobic digester, Capstone microturbines are able to cleanly and effectively run on methane gas from landfills, wastewater treatment facilities, food processing facilities and farms. Capstone microturbines can be easily integrated with a heat recovery module to capture the energy produced from the clean exhaust to meet thermal needs in various commercial and industrial applications. Additionally, Capstone microturbines can be used in hybrid electric vehicle applications to serve as a range extender or in marine applications, including luxury yachts and workboat vessels, to provide onboard auxiliary power.

What is a typical payback / cost for a microturbine installation?

While we aim for a three- to five-year payback period, there is no “typical” payback or cost for any one Capstone microturbine installation due to the many factors that go into each project. Based on the individual power load, every company is given a recommended power plant configuration based on the surrounding climate, fuels available, existing infrastructure, etc. A few site examples include:
  • The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, which installed a combined cooling, heating and power (CCHP) system several years ago. The four Capstone C65 microturbines generate electricity and heat to provide power and air-conditioning to support much of the hotel. By doing so, the hotel has reduced its power consumption by 20 percent and saved about $120,000 annually in energy costs.
  • The den Dulk Dairy in Michigan, which installed a Capstone CR30 microturbine capable of converting manure from 1,000 of its cows into 30kW of clean, green electricity. In addition, heat from the process is reused to heat the farm’s 700-square-foot concrete liquid/ solid separator building.
  • The Giant Company’s Ramon Station located between Roswell and Vaughn, New Mexico, at a 5,300-foot elevation. Capstone installed 15 65kW standalone microturbines. Fueled by propane, the microturbines are providing primary power for three 200-horsepower pumps capable of pumping 55,500 barrels of oil per day.
  • The Villa Olmi Resort in Florence, Italy, which utilizes three 65 kW Capstone microturbines with integrated heat recovery for hot water production. The system provides heat to the building and swimming pool, and utilizes an absorption chiller for cooling in the summer. The onsite power system is also able to operate independently of the utility grid to provide backup power for the resort in case of a power outage.


How can converting free fuels from landfills, wastewater treatment facilities and food processing facilities create clean and reliable electricity?

For landfills, Capstone microturbines can turn decomposing trash into methane gas to generate electricity to be used onsite or sold to the utility. Our microturbines are extremely flexible to variations in methane content and the landfill can avoid needlessly flaring the gas and contributing to global warming. For wastewater treatment facilities, Capstone microturbines can operate on low-BTU methane gas and other waste gas fuels created from the treatment of domestic wastewater (for example, methane produced by anerobic digesters that break down waste into biogas). Capstone microturbines can also operate on methane generated from livestock manure, agricultural waste or palm oil effluent. The microturbine system can generate stable electricity while reducing energy costs and lowering carbon dioxide emissions. Additionally, exhaust heat can be recovered and used on-site in several ways, e.g. to maintain digester temperatures, provide industrial process heat or sterilization, provide hot water or space heating to buildings. Another example is for food processing facilities, such as dairies, manure from cows can be converted into clean-and-green electricity once the manure has been processed and methane gas extracted.

The unreliable nature of some alternative energy sources has led to slow adoption. Is there a way to change this? 

As more companies across varying industries start turning to alternative energy technologies to save on their energy costs, they will come to appreciate Capstone’s value proposition—as well as the overall reliability and efficiency of our products. It is then that these businesses will become more enthusiastic about adoption and seek to implement alternative energy sources, like microturbines, at their own facilities.

How can technologies such as microturbines enable consumers and businesses to decrease their environmental impact while also saving money?

Capstone microturbines are small-scale power generation systems that can generate both electrical and thermal energy for industrial and commercial customers. They offer a total system efficiency of up to 80 percent in combined heat and power (CHP) applications and up to 90 percent in combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) applications. They also produce about one-tenth the emissions of reciprocating engines. Microturbines are an integrated power generation solution that can be used as backup power but are designed to serve as a prime source for everyday power generation year-round. Because Capstone microturbines only have one moving part, we can guarantee the lifecycle cost of the product along with minimal maintenance. For these reasons, microturbines are a smart choice for power generation from both an economic and environmental perspective.
About Darren R. Jamison Darren Jamison, President and CEO at Capstone Turbine, has more than 28 years of direct industry experience in the area of distributed generation. Jamison and his organization have a proven track record in their commitment to the environment, with thousands of Capstone microturbines installed and operating worldwide. Microturbines provide a variety of societal and customer benefits including reduced fuel consumption, emissions and greenhouse gases as well as utility grid support, lower energy costs and security of power. To learn more, visit:
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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