WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has announced funding for 12 new projects as part of ARPA-E’s program: GENerators for Small Electrical and Thermal Systems (GENSETS). The GENSETS projects are aimed at developing generator technologies that will improve efficiencies in residential combined heat and power (CHP) systems.

Compared to conventional electricity generation, CHP captures the otherwise wasted heat and makes it available for useful application. By making CHP affordable for home use, this heat can be used for water and home heating, reducing homeowners’ energy costs. GENSETS project teams will develop advanced generators to produce electricity from piped-in natural gas while using the waste heat to reduce the energy used by furnaces and water heaters. Widespread adoption of CHP systems in the residential sector would lead to significant energy savings, along with increased reliability for the residential power supply and a reduction in CO2 emissions.

The program will provide $25 million to support 12 project teams to design, build, and test improved natural gas-powered generators for residential use. These generators can supply the majority of a household’s electricity while producing thermal energy for space and water heating. In order to make small-scale CHP systems more economical and to stimulate widespread adoption, the GENSETS program aims to develop one kilowatt systems that are affordable, efficient, and durable. The selected project teams are grouped into four areas of technology focus: internal combustion engines, Stirling engines, microturbines, and solid-state devices.

An example of a selected GENSETS project is:

Brayton Energy, Hampton, New Hampshire
1kW Recuperated Brayton-Cycle Engine Using Positive-Displacement Components

Brayton Energy will lead a team in developing a high-efficiency microturbine CHP system that employs a thermodynamic cycle commonly used for large scale turbines. The key innovation for making an effective microturbine is to adapt this technology to use a lower input pressure. This will improve durability and increase efficiency by enabling use of a larger screw compressor for low viscous losses. The planned device also includes a silicon nitride screw expander, which enables high temperature operation. Brayton Energy will use its patented intake air recuperator and existing ultra-low emissions combustor to complete the CHP system.

Information on all 12 GENSETS projects may be found here.

Publication date: 7/6/2015

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