by Dave Alexander

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration operation in Muskegon and a Houston-based energy company are partnering to explore alternative energy. 

Mobile Gen LLC has been at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Muskegon for the past week testing the performance of its new mobile power generation trailer.

Due to Sunday evening's windstorm, NOAA lost its power, and by Monday morning the mobile power unit had been pressed into service, providing electricity for the field station, classrooms and scientific equipment. It is able to power the facilities indefinitely.

The prototype, built in Elkhart, Ind., combines two wind turbines, five solar power panels, a battery storage system and a propane/hydrogen generator in a 20-foot utility trailer.

The trailer has been parked at the NOAA field station on the Muskegon Channel as Mobile Gen officials collect data. The unit is designed to provide mobile, remote electrical power for the military, disaster response or government agencies like NOAA.

For NOAA's Great Lakes operation in Muskegon, Mobile Gen allows field station staff to get hands-on experience with various alternative energy devices at a time when alternative energy upgrades are being planned for the Muskegon facility.

"This allows us to look at the aesthetics, noise level and environmental impact for a real-world assessment and not just an engineering study," said Dennis Donahue, NOAA maritime superintendent in Muskegon.

"We are learning that all of the components work well but system integration is the key," Donahue said. "The learning curve is in how all of the elements work together."

In NOAA's future in Muskegon, Donahue sees a variety of alternative energy demonstrations including wind turbines, solar panels, a hydrogenerator using the 4 knots of current in the Muskegon Channel and a geothermal heat pump using the water in the adjacent U.S. Coast Guard boat basin.

"The ultimate game plan is to create hydrogen out of Lake Michigan water to power fuel cells for our boats," Donahue said.

The Mobile Gen unit has been attracting plenty of local attention, according to James Etchechury, the company's vice president of business development. "We're excited about partnering with folks in Michigan," he said.

From concept to prototype trailer has taken only four months for the company that has been created by private investors who have long histories in the natural-gas, power-generation sector. The goal is to provide "reliable, redundant, remote" power from a trailer that can be set up by two crew members in less than an hour, Etchechury said.

The trailer provides the remote power but the reliability and redundancy come from combining the technologies: two 3-kilowatt wind turbines, 1-kilowatt solar cells, 5 kilowatts from lithium battery packs and a 10-kilowatt propane generator.

The standard output is 7 kilowatts of electricity, enough for six recreational vehicles using all of their power appliances, including air conditioning, or two typical disaster-relief tents with food lines, Etchechury said. But with the batteries and generator, the output can nearly triple over short periods of time.

 

Source: MLive.com

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