New Partnership Investigates Highly Efficient, Clean-Burning Engines to Serve as Power-Grid Backup

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Caterpillar Inc. and Woodward Governor Company have made significant donations to Colorado State University’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory (EECL) to develop a low-emissions, high-efficiency engine that could  improve the reliability and efficiency of the electrical power grid, reducing the occurrence of rolling blackouts.

The new Distributed Power Generation Research Center will conduct research on distributed power generation – an increasingly popular solution for power companies working to keep up with demand and increasing competition under deregulation. Peak power demand is expected to grow by 2 percent per year through 2010, according to the North American Electric Reliability Council.

It’s the first such center of its kind in the nation.

Distributed power refers to electricity that is generated close to where it’s needed – such as next to a factory or neighborhood or other major power user. The closer it is, the smaller the transmission losses and the more energy – and money – saved.

"Distributed power generation technology is key to reliably meeting the growing power needs of our communities, without building new high-voltage power lines," said Tom Gendron, chief executive officer of Woodward, which produces its industrial engine control components in Northern Colorado plants. "We are pleased to be working with Caterpillar and Colorado State to help launch this effort."

Caterpillar donated the newly developed G3516C 60 Hz engine capable of 1.6 megawatts for the first phase at the new center, located in the EECL at 430 N. College Ave.   

"Caterpillar leads the industry in research and product development, spending $4 million each working day on research and engineering," said Bill Boley, Caterpillar’s gas engine technology engineering supervisor.  "We are committed to producing the highest efficiency, lowest emission natural gas engines in the world, and our investment

in the engines lab will compliment Caterpillar’s own research while providing the platform for a collaborative effort with the professors and students at Colorado State University. We look forward to a long-term relationship focused on developing advanced gas engine technology."

Because it would be located close to homes and businesses, distributed power also needs to be clean burning. Distributed power requires an engine and a generator to provide electricity with the goal of having the lowest emissions possible in applications to provide back up power for schools and hospitals, said Bryan Willson, a mechanical engineering professor who serves as director of the EECL.

Rudy Stanglmaier, mechanical engineering assistant professor, will manage the new center within the EECL. In the first phase, researchers and industry officials will work to make the already efficient Caterpillar engine even more efficient while further reducing exhaust emissions. At a later stage, they hope to develop a distribution power facility that would mate the engine to a generator and connect it to the electrical grid in Fort Collins to test it in conjunction with utilities such as Fort Collins Light and Power and the Platte River Power Authority.

That test is at least a year away, researchers said.

"We are thrilled to be working with two industry giants on this unique facility," said Stanglmaier. "We want to be at the forefront of advances in this technology because interest in this sector is expected to grow rapidly."

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Power Technologies wants distributed generation to account for 20 percent of new generating capacity in the United States by 2010.

In the meantime, demand continues to rise: Sales of electricity to consumers have increased by 2.1 percent annually since 1989, but transmission capacity has increased only 0.8 percent, according to Caterpillar.

The new Distributed Power Research Center is expected to serve as an independent source of information on distributed power for industry and energy users. Other potential users include equipment manufacturers, national laboratories and universities.

Woodward donated $150,000 to install the engine in the lab and prepare it for the first phase of testing.

The gifts from Caterpillar and Woodward will significantly enhance Colorado State’s activities in education, outreach and sponsored research.

"Working with Caterpillar and the researchers at Colorado State, Woodward is looking forward to developing and demonstrating our advanced controls technologies that meet global demand for clean, efficient power sources," Gendron said. "This is only the first phase, of course, and we encourage the City of Fort Collins and other Colorado-based companies and organizations to become involved in this exciting research."

About Caterpillar Inc.

For 80 years, Caterpillar Inc. has been building the world’s infrastructure and, in partnership with its worldwide dealer network, is driving positive and sustainable change on every continent. With 2004 sales and revenues of $30.25 billion, Caterpillar is a technology leader and the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines.

About Woodward Governor Company

Woodward (Nasdaq: WGOV) is the world’s largest independent designer, manufacturer, and service provider of energy control solutions for aircraft engines, industrial engines and turbines, power generation, and mobile-industrial equipment. The company’s innovative control, fuel delivery and combustion systems help customers worldwide operate cleaner, more reliable and cost-effective equipment. Woodward is headquartered in Rockford, Ill., and serves global power generation, transportation, process industries and aerospace markets from locations worldwide.

About Colorado State University’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory

The engines lab facilitates, through research and educational programs, the development of new technologies for reducing the emissions and fuel consumption from engines and energy conversion processes. It is part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Professor Allan Kirkpatrick serves as chairman of the department, which is within the College of Engineering. Sandra Woods is currently serving as interim dean of the college.

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