Coupling photovoltaics with linear generators


U.S.-based industrial real estate investment trust (REIT) and logistics solutions provider Lineage Logistics LLC announced, this week, that its Colton Agua Mansa facility, in California’s Inland Empire, is now being powered by a 3.3 MW rooftop PV system and 460 kW of linear generators which, Lineage claims, will cover 100% of the facility's electricity needs on a net basis. Around 73% of this demand will be covered by the solar array, and the remaining 27% by the linear generators.

The PV system was constructed by PowerFlex, a unit of France’s EDF Group, and the linear generators were provided by U.S. specialist Mainspring Energy. “The on-site solar project in Colton demonstrates Lineage’s ongoing commitment to deploying innovative solutions to ensure that its operations are as sustainable as humanly possible,” said PowerFlex director Danny Ptak.

Permanent-magnet linear generators use linear motion to generate power, converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. They rely on permanent magnets that create a magnetic field and cause a magnetic flux change in a circuit formed by windings, to generate power.

“The units ramp up and down usage to enable maximum use of the building’s solar array, ensuring reliability and optimal use of renewable power at all times,” said Lineage, referring to the linear generators deployed at its facility. “This increases the site’s resiliency by reducing grid dependency, and lowers operating costs.”

The linear generator from Mainspring Energy.

Image: Mainspring Energy

Mainspring Energy's liner generator is claimed to provide fuel-flexible and dispatchable on-site power generation for behind-the-meter (BTM) commercial and industrial (C&I) customers; front-of-the-meter (FTM) utility substations; and micro-grids. It uses a low-temperature reaction of air and fuel to drive magnets through copper coils to produce power.

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Natural gas or biogas can be used as fuels and, according to the manufacturer, the system can meet the strictest emissions standards in
the U.S., allowing for fast, streamlined permitting. “The design leads to high efficiency and low emissions with the added ability to dynamically
switch between renewable fuels such as biogas and hydrogen or non-renewable fuels such as natural gas and propane,” the company explains in a white paper dedicated to its technology. “Full dispatchability, or the ability to turn on [and] off and ramp up and down on command, allows linear generators to serve fluctuating energy demand profiles.”

Key components in the Mainspring Energy linear generator.

Image: Mainspring Energy

The company also emphasizes that the electricallycontrolled linear motion of oscillators embedded in the system compresses the fuel and air mixture until the mixture reacts uniformly and instantaneously without a flame or burning. “Since there is no flame or burning, the reaction occurs at low temperatures (less than 1,500 degrees Celsius) and, as a result, produces nearzero nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions.”

This reaction drives the two oscillators carrying magnets through copper coils and produces electricity through the linear motion. Outer springs are then compressed to return the oscillators for the next cycle.

Mainspring Energy offers the solution in 240 kW packages containing two linear generator cores and claims the generator can be linked either to on-site solar PV or battery storage to firm intermittency and add resiliency.

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