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Enhancing Engine Operations in Off-Grid Renewable Energy Applications Through the Additional Use of Hydrogen

[+] Author Affiliations
Curtis Robbins, Roger Jacobson, Rick Purcell

Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV

Kirk Collier

Collier Technologies, Reno, NV

Ralph Wagner

Southwest Gas Corporation, Las Vegas, NV

Isaac Mahderekal

IntelliChoice Energy, Las Vegas, NV

Paper No. IMECE2010-38911, pp. 1493-1499; 7 pages
  • ASME 2010 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 5: Energy Systems Analysis, Thermodynamics and Sustainability; NanoEngineering for Energy; Engineering to Address Climate Change, Parts A and B
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, November 12–18, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4429-8
  • Copyright © 2010 by ASME


The current renewable energy transformation taking place around the world has led to drastic advances in technology that relates to the issue of climate change. Although many solutions have been found and/or created, there has yet to be one that can, on its own, solve the problem of finding an environmentally friendly energy source. This leads to the challenge of creating an integrated system which relies on several components with different types of energy. It has been the goal of this study to further enhance an off-grid renewable energy power system to supply economical, secure, and continuous electrical power, in an environmentally conscious way, for various types of loads. The previous power system consisted of a mobile unit with inverters, batteries, hydrogen generator, hydrogen storage, propane storage and an internal combustion engine generator that was connected to photovoltaics and wind turbines while being controlled and monitored by a single computer unit. The only pollutants emitted from this power system were the result of the use of propane as a backup fuel, when renewable energy was insufficient. Even though propane is a fossil fuel, its use in this study allowed the system to be simpler and more cost effective. With the assistance of Southwest Gas Corporation, a more efficient and reliable internal combustion engine was acquired. The three cylinder engine, with a 10,000 hour maintenance interval, was converted from natural gas to combust either hydrogen or propane. The engine provides mechanical power to a belt driven alternator supplying electricity to the load and other components of the system. Initial testing of the engine achieved engine dynamometer efficiency of over 40% using propane at wide open throttle and 45% using hydrogen at wide open throttle. The output under these conditions was roughly 20 HP using propane and 10 HP using hydrogen. The current system is not mobile but has the potential to be mobile by using an existing KOH electrolyzer for hydrogen generation with a larger output and hydrogen storage capacity.

Copyright © 2010 by ASME



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