Microturbines are small combustion turbines, approximately the size of a refrigerator, with an output of 25 kW to 500 kW. A microturbine is comprised of a compressor, combustor, turbine, alternator, recuperator, and a generator. Microturbines are characterised by a low number of moving parts, compact size, low weight, higher efficiency, minor emissions, lower cost of operation, and capability to utilise waste fuels. They are considered an ideal solution for the production of power within space limitations. To achieve efficiency levels greater than 80% in waste heat recovery, microturbines are helpful.
Microturbines can be classified by the physical arrangement of the component parts, as single shaft or two-shaft, simple cycle or recuperated, inter-cooled, and reheated. Globally, contribution from a single shaft segment in the global market pie is the highest, as it is simpler and less expensive to manufacture than the other options. On the other hand, the split shaft is necessary for machine drive applications, and it does not require an inverter to change the frequency of the AC power. They can also be classified as simple cycle or recuperated. Simple cycle microturbines have a lower cost, higher reliability, and are more suitable for cogeneration applications than recuperated units. Recuperated units have a higher thermal to electric ratio than unrecuperated units and, in addition, can produce 30-40% fuel savings from preheating.
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The global microturbine market is expected to grow two fold from 2014 to 2020. Rise in adoption of low emission power generation sources, increase in energy demand, and need of cost efficient power supply are some of the drivers for the global market. The micro turbine’s ability to run on multiple fuels is another factor facilitating the growth of the market. Currently, contribution from North America and Europe in the global microturbines market is the highest. Among the two regions, North America is the largest contributor, accounting for 40-50% of the global market. Currently, USA dominates the market and expected to continue with in this position till 2020. Increasing carbon footprint and regulatory intervention by several environmental agencies including CAA (Clean Air Act) are likely to fuel product demand in North America. Europe is the second largest geographic segment in the global market. Restructured EU NEC (European Union National Emission Ceilings) policies have fuelled the microturbine market in Europe. APAC is expected to register a significant growth in future owing to the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles. In Brazil, the government has come up with strong supportive schemes.
The global market can also be further segmented in terms of its application, such as CHP generation and standby power. The demand for Combined Cooling & Heating Power (CCHP) and Combined Heating & Power (CHP) generation technologies is expected to increase significantly due to rising concerns about global warming. The rising cost of electricity is also forecast to fuel the demand for microturbine technology.
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Currently, low power rating segment has the largest contribution in the global microturbine market. Low power rating segment has maximum demand in hybrid electric vehicles. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are investing in R&D activities to enhance the efficiency of microturbines. The global microturbine market can be segmented by end use, which includes, industrial, commercial and residential. Currently, contribution from the industrial end use segment in the range of 45-55% is the largest in the global microturbines market. Furthermore, the market is categorised as per CHP generation and standby power applications, of which CHP generation dominates the market.
Companies such as Brayton Energy and Capstone are the key players who are working towards developing efficient microturbines. At present, Capstone is the leading player in the global microturbine market and the company is expected to continue its dominance till 2019. Key players that deal in microturbine systems include FlexEnergy, Global Microturbine LLC, and NewEnCo. Advanced materials, such as ceramics and thermal barrier coatings, are some of the key enabling technologies which will further improve microturbines. The use of ceramics in microturbines improves efficiency. This will allow a significant increase in engine operating temperature.
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Globally, the demand for microturbines is expected to grow significantly, due to the rise inthe global energy demand. The industrial end use segment is expected to continue its dominance from 2014 to 2020.