Distributed Generation (DG) leverages the excellent distribution network of natural gas in the United States and offers an alternative to grid drawn electricity that is often generated in centralized power plants. The advantages of DG include:
- Improved resilience in the face of natural disasters
- Less grid congestion
- Reduced carbon footprint
Distributed generation applied in the form of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) uses waste heat for space/process heating and further improves the overall efficiency to >75%.
Argonne’s DG research primarily focuses on improving the efficiency and emissions performance of natural gas-fired stationary reciprocating engines. These are often large-bore engines with power outputs in the range 0.5–20 megawatts. Technologies pursued include low-temperature combustion, advanced ignition systems, nitrogen enriched intake air and waste heat recovery. Also, with strategic partnership with industry Argonne strives to make micro-CHP viable in the US.
Argonne performs this research in a test facility called the Distributed Energy Research Center. This facility features multiple engine test cells, state-of-the-art emissions test equipment, and a unique facility that can blend seven different gases to a user-specified composition. The latter facility facilitates investigation of natural gas composition and that of various alternative gaseous fuels (opportunity fuels) on engine performance and emissions.
Argonne is uniquely positioned to leverage advanced diagnostics, computational fluid dynamics simulation and advanced manufacturing techniques to advance DG technology for future needs. As the United States marches towards grid modernization, DG will play an important role in grid firming and disaster resilience.