News from Power-Gen: EPA Regs, IBC and CHP

By Staff January 1, 2006

Codes and regulations for standby and emergency generators were among the hottest topics of discussion at the Power-Gen International conference and expo, held in Las Vegas in early December. And one of the most widely discussed issues was the recent announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning its New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for stationary generator sets. Up to now, federal regulations that limit diesel emissions from electric power applications have only affected off-road mobile applications—and haven’t applied to standby gensets.

However, under a new proposed final ruling from the EPA, beginning April 1, 2006, stationary generator sets must begin the process of coming into compliance with the Non-Road Mobile Regulation for diesel-powered generators. As they apply to stationary gensets, the regulations are being introduced in four “tiers”—actually, in a two-stage process—beginning in 2006 and continuing through 2010.

What’s of particular significance for facility engineers and their consultants is that the initial burden of complying with these regulations will fall on their shoulders. “To begin with, in the first stage, the burden of proof is on the end user—if called to do so by authorities—not the manufacturer,” explained Greg Harness, product definition consultant with Caterpillar Electric Power Division, who was one of several panelists in a session titled “Diesel Power: Challenges and Opportunities.”

“In the first phase of NSPS, from April 1 through Dec. 31, 2006, manufacturers are not required to certify new engines for stationary applications,” he said. “But end users are required to order engines that meet the equivalent of Tier 1 emission standards.”

The second stage, begining in 2007, is a much longer process. This stage is scheduled to continue through 2010. At this point in NSPS implementation, responsibility shifts to the generator manufacturer. “The second stage becomes effective for engines built on or after Jan. 1, 2007,” said Harness. “Beginning with this stage, factory certification is required, and stationary gensets must meet the non-road mobile emissions and tier levels in effect.”

Two other significant issues in this second stage are: Exhaust aftertreatment devices required with Tier 4 in 2011 and 2012 will not be required on emergency stationary applications; and engines rated at 3,000 bhp and above will be certified to Tier 1 emission levels until January 2011, at which time they will be certified to Tier 4.

While all of this may seem a bit confusing, the important thing to keep in mind about the NSPS regulations for stationary gensets is that 2006 is a phase-in year where end users take the responsibility for becoming Tier 1-compliant. But beginning in 2007, stage two means the move toward the eventual goal of having all gensets installed in the United States be EPA-certified.

But EPA’s NSPS wasn’t the only compliance issue to garner attention at this year’s show. Another participant on the “Diesel Power” panel, Richard Berger, SGMEC Group, raised some significant code issues regarding emergency power as defined in the International Building Code.

It is Berger’s contention that the IBC offers a new definition of emergency—and hence, of emergency power—for the codes. “If a building’s system or components bear the name ’emergency,’ then they must continue to function as long as the building survives,” he said.

Moreover, under IBC, all parties—manufacturer, supplier, installer and design team—have a responsibility for making the emergency system work.

Berger raises the issue of how significant IBC compliance has become. Not only has the IBC been widely adopted by the states, but the federal government has mandated IBC compliance. This can present problems in a city like New York, which is not under the IBC, he said, when it comes time for city officials to request federal funding on a project.

But with respect to emergency power-generating systems, it was the issue of survivability—and the designers’ and users’ responsibility for guaranteeing it—that Berger wanted to emphasize.

For example, according to the IBC, buildings of a certain seismic designation must “prove that the component known as the emergency generation system and all of the components that support that system are capable of staying online and functional before and after an event,” said Berger.

One final topic of note at Power-Gen: distributed generation. With the passage of EPAct05, which included a number of tax incentives for DG power generation sources such as microturbines, fuel cells and photovoltaics, these technologies are being evaluated with renewed interest. Fuel cells and PV get the best investment tax break—30%—with microturbines scheduled for a 10% investment tax break. According to Chip Bottone, President, Ingersoll-Rand Energy Systems, who personally participated in the hearings on the energy bill, the different breaks were determined on the basis of how much help the respective technologies needed.

Elsewhere at the conference another topic bandied about on the expo floor was the notion of “connectivity”—not to the utility grid, but to other building automation and control systems. “It’s a key issue we’re finding a lot of engineers are having to react to from their clients who want more information from their emergency power systems,” said Joe LaMartina, Midwest sales manager for tranfer switch powerhouse ASCO.

As a result, the vendor displayed its MODBUS and web-based system at the show. The manufacturer is also presently installing the monitoring system on emergency power equipment being installed at Northwestern University’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago.