Specifying portable power generators

Published:  29 November, 2010

Mark Taylor, Divisional Manager, Atlas Copco Generators explains that when it comes to specifying portable power generators, the choice of models will undoubtedly favour those providing more power from smaller units, offering quieter operation and creating lower exhaust emissions. But these aspirations are not just customer-led; they are legislative requirements of the market regulations both in the EU and the US.  So, two of the first questions which potential end users should ask relate to the noise and the emissions of the unit relative to the application.

European noise legislation

The importance of addressing noise emissions is paramount to the design of outdoor mechanical equipment.  European regulations now require employers to provide those regularly exposed to 85 decibels or above with hearing protection (85 decibels is the sound equivalent of a 2-stroke chain saw at a distance of 10m). However, the trend within the industry is to seek attenuation of noise levels to well below that threshold, down towards 66 dB(A), equivalent to normal conversational level.


So, how to overcome the problem? The answer is to design generators that limit equipment vibrations, have acoustic attenuating enclosures and are fitted with efficient exhaust silencing systems, all of which are standard features within Atlas Copco’s portable generator ranges for example.


Emissions standards

With ever stricter and tougher legislation in place for non-road equipment, the main challenge for manufacturers of diesel engines and generator sets is to reduce the level of harmful substances in engine emissions, while maintaining similar or better performance levels.


EU legislation categorises allowable emissions in non-road diesel engines as Stages I, II, IIIA, IIIB and IV. Each stage specifies a lesser amount of specific pollutants, measured by the number of grams per kilowatt-hour that are allowed to be present in diesel exhaust. The controls apply to four combustion by-product constituents: Nitrogen Oxides (Nox), Hydrocarbons (HC), Carbon Monoxide (CO) and particulate matter – mainly soot particles from unburned carbon.


The emission of these pollutants can be controlled by improvements in combustion efficiency. The effect of these regulations can be seen mostly in the form of NOx and HC reduction, with emissions reducing by over 40 per cent for certain power ranges.


Users should be aware that from 2013, future stringent controls for Stage IV and beyond will no doubt require aftertreatment systems to reduce pollution constituents, such as selective catalytic reduction and regenerative filters.


Health and safety issues

Operational safety is of course a paramount requirement when specifying generators. So how do you ensure that a gen set is inherently safe? One thing to look out for is the use of four pole main motorised circuit breakers to ensure overload and short circuit protection. A separated power cubicle opposite the control cubicle is another, as is emergency stop, automatic engine alarms and shut down operation as standard. Hazardous spillages can also be prevented if the unit is constructed with a double skinned, removable fuel tank with leakage sensors, and a spillage-free frame that eliminates ground-polluting accidental engine fluids or fuel spills


In its latest offering of generators, that now comprises a range from 12kVA through to 1250kVA, Atlas Copco incorporates all of these safety features and meets all of the noise and emission legislative requirements The key driver has been to exceed the limits of current environmental legislation, and to provide reliable equipment that is safe, easy to use and adaptable.


  • Operation Florian

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