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Kotzebue electric to turn exhaust to energy

June 14th, 2013 | Hannah Heimbuch Print this article   Email this article  

The Kotzebue Electric Association is taking its energy efficiency up a notch in 2013 with the purchase of a generator capable of turning exhaust heat into usable energy.

The Organic Rankin Cycle Generator recovers waste heat, or exhaust, that is typically expelled from a power plant or piece of major farming or industrial equipment. The "waste heat" is then converted back into a usable form of energy.

"GE's Clean Cycle technology represents an effective answer for our specific need to reduce diesel consumption," said Brad Reeve in a release. Reeve is the general manager and CEO for KEA. "The Clean Cycle generator creates an excellent way of utilizing every bit of energy from our engines, primarily our excess heat. As a result of the solution created jointly with GE, we expect to reduce costs and raise the efficiency of our diesel power plant."

The generator, purchased from General Electric, aims to up the fuel efficiency of several diesel-powered engines that pump power into Kotzebue homes and businesses. It's the exhaust heat from those engines that will be repurposed.

GE called the project a way for small communities and large industries to showcase ways energy efficiency can be improved using existing systems. A company release states that GE efficiency technology like the cycle generator saves an estimated 177,000 liters of diesel every year.

Such savings is especially important in a location where reliable heat is so essential, and so very expensive. This and other new technology upgrades are a part of KEA's effort to extend the life of the community's summer diesel shipment and reduce overall system costs.

As an offshoot of this new system component, surplus heat that is not turned into usable power will be used to heat Kotzebue's potable water reserve. This mass was previously heated by boilers running off of diesel.

"This reduction in heating costs is a significant economic value to the city," reads the GE release.

Support for this energy upgrade came in part from the state's Renewable Energy Fund.

"We have a great interest in bringing small-scale waste heat recovery to diesel utility applications around the world," said Brad Garner, president of heat recovery solutions within GE's Power & Water department. "Kotzebue highlights how the Clean Cycle technology can reduce cost and increase fuel efficiency by utilizing heat from diesel engines. This is a tangible value and an attractive power source for end customers."

The energy recovery process used by this particular generator produces no additional emissions. Only the reconverted energy and the excess heat that will be used to heat the water supply. In Kotzebue, this technology will displace approximately 100 kilowatts of diesel power.

Hannah Heimbuch can be reached at


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