Waste Not, Want Not – Power Generator Waste Heat Recovery

The Air Force is taking steps to better integrate energy considerations into mission capabilities.

One way is through reduced energy demand. To accomplish this, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Advanced Power Technology Office is looking for ways to develop, demonstrate, and implement technological innovations to improve energy efficiency.

Waste Heat Recovery System for MEP 806 generator.  (Graphic illustration provided by the Air Force Research Lab)

Waste Heat Recovery System for MEP 806 generator. (Graphic illustration provided by the Air Force Research Lab)

APTO is currently collaborating with Air Force Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources (BEAR) on the High Efficiency Power Generation project. The project will develop and demonstrate energy efficient technologies in Air Force ground support equipment by reducing demand for fuel and integrating a Waste Heat Recovery (WHR) system.

The High Efficiency Power Generation project will use a common BEAR operations generator, the MEP 806, to asses it for improvements in efficiency.  The WHR system in this project uses Organic Rankin Cycle (ORC) technology to convert energy, or wasted heat, into usable shaft power to augment the diesel engine in the generator.

The ORC system will capture heat from the generator exhaust system and engine coolant system through heat exchangers that convert fluid to vapor. The vapor will then power the diesel engine through a controlled clutch system. And finally, the working fluid will be changed back to a liquid to complete the cycle.

The project successfully completed a preliminary design review in 2013.

Currently, the project is undergoing staged build-up and testing of WHR system components to confirm operability and quantify performance. The build-up of the system will end with testing and validation of modified MEP 806 prototype. That prototype will be demonstrated under field conditions on Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in 2014.

The MEP 806 prototype will assess the feasibility of capturing and reusing waste heat to reduce fuel consumption by 8 to 10 percent in the generator.

If successful, the technology can be applied to larger generator systems. Reducing large-system fuel demand is important for in-theater operations to reduce the vulnerability of fuel supply lines.

The APTO Program executes technology development and demonstration of alternative energy technologies on behalf of Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Energy.  APTO’s mission is to scope and develop technologies to meet user requirements, progress solutions through Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), and highlight technology transition activities for Air Force enterprise use.

Story and information provided by the Air Force Research Laboratory

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