Distribution Generations Meets the Challenge

Times have changed," says Mark Gerken, president of American Municipal Power-Ohio, Inc. (AMP-Ohio). "Several years ago, the market was stable and it was possible to buy power in reasonable annual contracts. Today you can't. Prices now fluctuate on an hourly basis.


Times have changed," says Mark Gerken, president of American Municipal Power-Ohio, Inc. (AMP-Ohio). "Several years ago, the market was stable and it was possible to buy power in reasonable annual contracts. Today you can't. Prices now fluctuate on an hourly basis."

AMP-Ohio is a wholesale energy supplier for 78 of Ohio's 85 community-owned electric utilities as well as three Pennsylvania municipalities and two in West Virginia. In June 1998, the price it paid for power shot up from $3.50 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to $3,500 per kWh. While the organization's members collectively generate 700 megawatts (mW) of power annually, AMP-Ohio also purchases roughly 1,300 mW per year from investor-owned utilities. With prices soaring, the group was looking for a way to gain better control in the future.

Distributed generation using power modules was the answer. It was not an entirely new answer. AMP-Ohio members and their communities were already using standard utility-grade modules for stand-by and peak-shaving purposes. In addition to gas turbines and two power plants-one of which is hydroelectric-the group uses diesel generation via power modules.

In 1999, 42 mW of diesel generation were installed throughout the AMP-Ohio system, with 23 power modules in seven locations. The group already was using 22 modular units. For the year 2000, the group installed 21 additional units at six locations. Installations typically are two, three or six units at one site, with three units being most common.

"We've done all of the engineering and legwork to facilitate smooth installations of power modules," said Scott Kiesewetter, manager of distributed generation for the group. "Between our engineers, consultants and contractors, we've got the process down to a science."

With a modular approach, Gerken notes, his group has "saved tremendously on design costs, as well as planning and zoning issues. The ease of installation, quiet and reliable operation, and modular styling make these units the most cost-effective way for us to conduct distributed generation."

With this approach the units can add to the local power supply individually. AMP-Ohio can rev them up quickly, adding modules to supply power as needed. All units are remotely monitored from the group's energy control center. "Power modules may be a little more expensive to operate than gas turbines," Gerken concludes, "but they require a lot less maintenance. Down the road, their potential mobility and versatility will be even more of an asset."

For more information on power modules for distributed generation from Caterpillar, Inc., circle 451 on the Reader Service Card.

From Pure Power, Spring 2001

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