STORY Power Generation

mtu standby power generators: The back-up for the worst case scenario

Posted on December 15, 2022 by Vanessa Bösch

mtu standby power generators are in demand like never before. What they can do, where to find them and what their climate-neutral future looks like.
Friedrichshafen, Germany
Energy security is currently a major issue with global dimensions. One scenario is clearly coming into focus: power failure. Suddenly the light is gone, the mobile phone searches in vain for a mobile phone network, while the food in the freezer slowly thaws. What is already inconvenient for private individuals in everyday life means the worst-case scenario for safety-critical facilities. For this reason, mtu standby power generators are often available just in case. They fulfil plan B when the public grid shows fluctuations or even fails completely at times. But in which areas can mtu standby power generators be found and what can they do?  

Great demand for mtu solutions: Global energy demand on the rise  

From airports and hospitals to data centres or companies with particularly sensitive production processes, such as the semiconductor industry: Electricity must never be absent. That is why mtu standby power generators are often found in these facilities. As soon as the public power supply is no longer sufficient or is interrupted, the diesel gensets take over and supply the necessary power. Accordingly, the requirements for the standby power supply are extraordinarily high. "Rolls-Royce is at home in this segment," says Dennis Zumbach, Sales Manager Power Generation in Europe, Africa and the Middle East at Rolls-Royce's Power Systems Division.          

The demand for standby power generators is currently booming like never before. "The biggest driver is mainly the data centre industry. It ensures full order books," explains Zumbach.

The reason for this is the steadily increasing energy demand of data centres. With video streaming, Industry 4.0 and home offices, the demand for computing power has increased by around 60 percent compared to 2010. The trend is continuing upwards, which means that the public power grid cannot always cover the demand, because the servers in particular, as well as their cooling, require large amounts of energy.  

mtu standby power units: from data centre to hospital

This is why many mtu standby power units can be found in data centres and the financial sector in particular. For example, AVK, as the largest supplier of standby power solutions in the UK, has been working exclusively with Rolls-Royce for over 20 years and has in the meantime delivered and installed several hundred mtu standby power units of the 2000 and 4000 series.

Hospitals such as the famous Charité in Berlin have also had two Rolls-Royce gensets in a purpose-built building since 2010. In addition to two diesel gensets with mtu 12V 4000 G23 engines, Rolls-Royce also supplied the cooling, fuel and exhaust systems, the supply and exhaust air system and the control system - in other words, a complete turnkey system. With an electrical output of 850 kVA per unit, the Charité can be supplied with standby power for around 50 hours.  

Distributed across the entire campus, several mtu standby power generators supply the Charité in Berlin with emergency power in the event of an emergency. The mtu standby power generators are mainly used in safety-critical facilities such as hospitals, data centres or the financial sector.

What can mtu standby power generators do?

Whether in the freezing cold of Siberia or during an earthquake in North America: mtu standby power generators must work reliably. In California, for example, the earth can shake up to 10,000 times a year, while the standby generator has to function perfectly. On a special test stand, the mtu gensets were tested under conditions similar to an earthquake.    

Uninterruptible power supply: The mtu Kinetic PowerPack

Particularly impressive: The gensets can start extremely quickly. After just a few seconds, the diesel gensets are working at full speed and take over the complete power supply of a plant. The short interim period is bridged by batteries or kinetic mass storage to guarantee an uninterrupted power supply.

Kinetic mass storage devices? They are an essential component of dynamic UPS (uninterruptible power supply) technology. This technology, which at Rolls-Royce is called mtu Kinetic PowerPack, consists of a diesel engine coupled via an electromagnetic clutch to a kinetic energy storage device - in simple terms, a flywheel weighing several tonnes. The mtu Kinetic PowerPacks guarantee a reliable and environmentally friendly uninterruptible power supply and energy processing without batteries.

During normal operation, the kinetic energy storage compensates for current and voltage fluctuations, which can cause problems with highly sophisticated and sensitive IT equipment and consequently lead to major financial losses, among other things. Even if the primary power source fails completely, the stored kinetic energy is sufficient to bridge the time until the diesel engine is running at full speed.  

Climate-neutral standby power supply with HVO, hydrogen and Co.


The demand for climate-neutral solutions is also increasing for the standby generator market. Rolls-Royce is taking concrete steps in this direction. The company is transforming itself into a provider of climate-neutral drive and energy solutions. The goal is climate neutrality by 2050, in line with the motto "Net Zero at Power Systems".

A milestone on this path is the already completed approval of mtu engines for use with sustainable fuels of the EN15940 standard. This includes HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil), which is produced on the basis of vegetable and animal fats, often from waste, not from plants grown specifically for this purpose. HVO can reduce particulate emissions by up to 80 percent and CO2 emissions by up to 90 percent.  

"The great thing about HVO is that you can use the fuel in our engines without limiting performance. Especially in England, many data centres have already converted to using HVO," says Dennis Zumbach.

In addition to the use of power-to-X fuels, hydrogen will play a major role in the standby gensets of the future. Already today, an admixture of 25 per cent of the gas is possible. As a further development stage, gas engines of the mtu 500 and 4000 series can then be operated with 100 per cent hydrogen in the next few years, as well as engines already installed can be converted. If the hydrogen is produced with energy from renewable sources, operation is climate-neutral.  

Fuel cells as a component of mtu standby power generators

In future, fuel cells will play an important role in climate-neutral mtu standby gensets: "mtu fuel cell gensets have already shown on the test bench that they can provide standby power just as reliably as diesel gensets in combination with batteries," Dennis Zumbach explains.    

The first fuel cell units will be installed in pilot projects at customer sites in 2023 and are expected to be in series production at Rolls-Royce from 2025.  

Fuel cells can also be used for standby power supply in the future. In 2023, Rolls-Royce will install the first pilot projects of this kind at the customer's site and plans to produce fuel cell gensets in series in 2025.
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