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Appendix B: Microturbines and heat pumps
Small gas turbines with an electrical output lower than one megawatt are called microturbines. Most manufacturers only started recently with the development of these small combustion turbines, which means that many models are still in a prototype phase. The models, which are fully tested and ready for commercialisation, are very expensive. The expectation is that, as more manufacturers enter the market, prices will drop significantly.
A microturbine consists of the same major components as a ‘normal’ gas turbine: the air compressor, the combustor and the turbine (see figure B-1). Microturbines are always single- shaft, which means that all the components can be found on the same shaft. Atmospheric air is compressed by the air compressor, after which fuel is injected into the airstream and ignited in the combustor. The leaving high-pressure hot gases are then expanded through the turbine, which provides the power required by the air compressor and the power to drive the load.
Figure B-1: Microturbine components (Orlando, 1996)
The electrical efficiency (electrical output divided by fuel energy input) of a microturbine is quite low: between 14% and 18%. Therefore, most microturbines will be used in a regenerative cycle, as shown in figure B-2. In this case, the turbine exhaust gases are used to preheat the combustion air prior to the combustor, reducing the amount of fuel that is required to reach a specified turbine inlet temperature and improve the turbine’s heat rate. Regeneration increases the electrical efficiency of a microturbine by 12% to 16%, thus achieving electrical efficiencies of approximately 30%.
Image | Appendix B: Microturbines and heat pumps
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