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Microturbine Precise Power Systems

Data centers require continuous, high quality power. Spikes from lighting strikes and switching transients shut down computers. Motor starting and other high inrush loads cause voltage drops that also shut down computers. Brownouts have the same effect. Blackouts can leave reservation centers and other critical operations off line for days.

Microturbines provide precise power continuously. They have low operating costs, especially if the exhaust heat is used with an absorption chiller to cool the computers. They also have low acquisition costs. More importantly, they have high reliability.

The most popular microturbines use gas turbine-driven generator sets to produce high frequency power that is rectified to direct current and then inverted to 50 or 60 Hz. For critical power, microturbines use two separate inverters as shown below instead of one.

Figure 1 shows normal operation. (Dotted lines are control lines. Heavy lines are power lines.) The generator set runs at its maximum continuous duty rating. The first or critical bus inverter operates in a stand alone or grid-independent mode. It follows the load and provides the exact amount of power needed by the computer. The second or non-critical bus inverter parallels with the facility bus and operates in a grid parallel mode reducing the power purchased from the utility. It monitors the output of the generator set and the input to the critical bus inverter. It provides just enough power to the facility so that the total power consumed by the two inverters exactly matches the maximum continuous rating of the microturbine. Thus the microturbine operates at its most efficient and most economical point as well as having the highest possible load factor.

Control box

Microturbine generator set

Critical inverter

Critical load

Power supply


Non-critical inverter

Non-critical load

Utility Grid

Figure 1 – Normal Operation

If the microturbine produces 30 kW and the critical inverter requires 20 kW for the computer, 10 kW will go to the non-critical inverter. If the computer loads drops and the critical inverter only needs 8 kW, 22 kW will go to the non-critical inverter. If the computer load steps up suddenly and the critical inverter now needs 24 kW, the micro turbine will not see a step load, as the non-critical inverter input will simply drop to 6 kW.

Note that all of the electricity consumed by the computers is converted to heat that must be disposed of or the computers will shut down. Using the exhaust heat from the gas turbine to power absorption chillers to provide the necessary cooling is both energy efficient and cost effective. This chiller can also cool the air coming into the microturbine thus increasing its rating and allowing it to operate at full power on hot days.

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