Why use internal combustion engines?
There are several key advantages to using internal combustion engines for power generation, not least flexibility and the ability to respond particularly quickly to changes in power demand.
Traditional diesel engines are relatively easy to maintain, with the ability to source parts all around the world, and the ability to run on both diesel and biodiesel makes them a great choice for power generation in more remote locations.
As highlighted above, internal combustion engines are also relatively inexpensive compared to other power generation technologies, making them a popular choice for backup and peaking power applications.
What are the downsides?
Although modern diesel engines are increasingly efficient, and can provide a better choice for smaller power plants thanks to lower costs and greater thermal efficiency, they are not always the best choice for power generation. They can be less efficient than other sources when it comes to providing large amounts of electricity to millions of people, and internal combustion engines also produce harmful emissions when running on traditional fossil fuels. We will see zero-emission options for internal combustion engines once fuels such as hydrogen are available in sufficient quantities, however.
The need for a constant supply of fuel can also provide logistical challenges when using internal combustion engines in more remote locations, occasionally relegating them to backup roles behind renewable alternatives such as solar or wind power.
Where do turbochargers come in?
Internal combustion engines alone may lack the efficiency of other power sources when it comes to generating large amounts of electricity, but adding turbochargers can help, resulting in greater power density, efficiency and cleanness.
Along with supporting the decarbonization journey in the maritime industry, turbochargers also make a huge difference when it comes to power generation. The concept of forced induction has actually been around for well over 100 years, and modern turbochargers are more efficient than ever, with increasingly powerful turbochargers delivering a more cost-effective path towards greater power density without needing to rely on increased displacement.
There are huge savings to be had when it comes to fuel. Using a 2,000 kW engine with a 25-year lifecycle at 50% load as an example, the turbocharged version is likely to be around 14% more efficient. CO2 emissions see a similar drop, with plant owners also benefiting from a reduction in NOx emissions, helping to provide power from internal combustion in the most efficient way possible.