UNBF'S NEW MICRO TURBINE PROVIDES UNIQUE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
November 20, 2006
Source: University of New Brunswick - Fredericton
A new micro turbine at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton will generate learning opportunities as well as energy.
"This micro turbine is a small-scale, 100kW generator that burns natural gas to produce electricity," explained Mike Bujold, energy manager for the university’s physical plant. "It is a cogeneration model. The heat generated by the production of electricity is reclaimed and used in the Central Heating Plant steam production process to maximize efficiency."
New Brunswick’s Energy Minister, Jack Keir, is pleased that the university has installed a micro turbine and will use it as an educational tool.
"I am encouraged with the leadership being shown by UNB with the deployment of new technologies that can lead to sustainable energy use," Mr. Keir said. "With the excellent staff and robust monitoring systems in place at UNB, I am confident that we will gain a great deal of knowledge about the performance of micro turbines and their role in New Brunswick’s energy future."
The micro turbine, which was started up in October, is a true partnership between day-to-day operations at UNBF and research. It is being used to leverage two technologies: a data historian and smart metering.
"The university has developed a data historian which will be used to provide real-time data on the operation of the micro turbine to the private sector and to university researchers and students," said Mr. Bujold. "We will soon be able to deliver the data directly to a lab of students, for example, who could use it to analyze the efficiencies of the unit.
"The ability to monitor every aspect of the micro turbine in real time within an actual process is unique in Canada. The micro turbine combined with the data historian technology provides us with a living lab."
It also provides opportunities for curriculum development in electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, and possibly in economics.
UNBF has been working closely with NB Power to apply smart-metering technology on campus. Smart meters will be used to measure the energy generated by the micro turbine.
"Smart metering uses digital technology instead of conventional mechanical meters with needles," explained Mr. Bujold. "It allows us to gather precise real-time measurements for analysis, that mechanical meters could not provide."
The micro turbine project is an integral part of the university’s utilities master planning process. This process involves exploring options to diversify UNBF’s energy portfolio.
"We are working diligently to develop a campus sustainability model," explained Mr. Bujold. "The information we gather about the micro turbine over time will tell us if it is feasible for us to operate it and if so, when."
He explains that there are many factors to consider, including the price of natural gas.
"If we are able to efficiently produce energy internally for our own consumption, micro turbines could become an integral part of our utility infrastructue in the future."
A large-scale research project by Liuchen Chang, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, inspired the installation of the micro turbine at UNB.
Dr. Chang is leading a multi-partner project to develop a network of small generators that could be connected to the electrical grid to produce electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
UNBF’s micro turbine would be one node in the microgeneration network that Dr. Chang envisions.
"NB Power supports a higher level of interconnection with the province’s electrical grid," explained Dr. Chang. "We are working to develop a network of small generators which combine renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and small hydro, with a controllable source, such as a small fuel cell."
The controllable source is needed to guarantee that a certain level of energy can be delivered to the grid, regardless of the availability of wind, solar or hydro electricity. The ability to contribute energy to the grid from these renewable sources will result in overall reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
UNBF’s partners in this project are l’Université de Moncton, Memorial University of Newfoundland, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Business New Brunswick, NB Power, Neil and Gunter, and Elliot Energy Systems.
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Sandra Howland, Public Relations Officer (506) 458-7968