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The increase in demand for smart generators is compelling makers to push the envelope in terms of innovation

by Jayashree Mendes

India is a country of noise. Our trains, our vehicles, and even our equipment put out at public places must make their presence felt. If it is silent, then something must be wrong with it. In such a situation, when one hears that there kinds of equipment available, such as generators, that are super silent and ultra super silent, it takes time to sink in.

Technology has a way of improving everything it touches. So when it comes to improving the quality of a product, it is the R&D departments of generator manufacturing companies that are constantly whirring with activity so as to raise the bar. Price, acoustics, emission control, size, design — all, and more, are attended to.

Abhinav Gupta, regional marketing manager for South Asia, Perkins, says that his company also focuses on building extremely power dense engines, so that their customers benefit from powerful solutions delivered from the same compact package. “These design features, which lead to lower lube oil consumption, are just some of the ways in which the latest generation of electric power engines support improved emissions standards,” he adds.

All the numerous steps in terms of pollution- and emission-control taken by various companies came in when in early 2014, the Ministry Of Environment and Forests — Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) — announced that the implementation of CPCB-II emission norms would become effective on July 1, 2014. The regulatory body defined the emission and noise levels for the power industry, and that included generators.

Since then, generator manufacturing companies are strictly required to adhere to the permissible emission norms and noise levels and work in various capacities in assuring a best-in-class engine, alternator, governing system, light-weight, and an assurance of less oil and fuel consumption. Almost all of them we know have complied and meet the permissible standards concerning emissions and noise.

The compliance with CPCB-II has also brought in strong design constraints on silencing and cooling performance. With portable generators becoming a rage, the CPCB-II approved equipment ensure a noise level average of lesser than 75 decibels (db).

Green wash
Some of the technical specifications that are the hallmark of environment-friendly generators are: Lower exhaust emissions (NOx, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and smoke) to keep the environment cleaner; lesser fuel consumption; lowest lube oil consumption; higher service interval minimises the utilisation of lube oil; super silent enclosures to control noise; eco-friendly chemicals to formulate engine coolant; and no lead content in the paints.

Jasmeet Singh, head, corporate communications and external affairs, JCB India Limited, says, “Our gensets are equipped with wastegate turbochargers, exhaust gas recirculation, four valve technology that reduces the emission of hazardous material and low quantity of oil burnt reduces unburnt hydrocarbons also.”

Speaking of ultra super silent generators, P Palaniappan, business head & senior vice-president, Mahindra Powerol, says, “We have gone beyond expectations and brought out generators that give out a noise level of only 65db. We reached a new high when we launched models that have a noise level of 58db. These are suitable for tourist places, temples, schools etc.”

A smart generator is one that is capable of independent action. Rajesh Bagga, director, Kohler Power India, says, “Our reliable and EPA-compliant generators power up automatically within seconds of a power outage and switch off instantly when power is restored. They use microprocessor-based control panels which aid in delivering dependable power to a wide range of output requirements. From small-load residential and business needs to heavy industry, every generator is engineered to provide maximum power, performance, flexibility and fuel efficiency while using the available resources optimally.”

Some of the newly developed Kohler generators are capable of connecting to the Internet and are used in conjunction with Kohler’s OnCue Home Generator Management System. With this feature, the generators can be accessed online so that diagnostics can be run remotely, to make sure that the generators are ready for a power outage.

PJM Khan, senior general manager, R&D and technical support, engine division, Cooper Corporation, says, “In case of multiple load coupled with gensets, we offer synchronisation features to economise the multiple gensets operations as per demand. Switch on & off and load sharing features helps save fuel and operating cost.”

The good part of the new range of smart generators is that they automatically start within 10 seconds of a power failure. In the case of multiple gensets and multiple load, we have something called LDSS (load dependent start stop)., says Vinay Barar, senior vice-president, Powerica Limited. “The idea is to pack in electronics and ensure that fuel consumption can be monitored. We have set the electronics so that users can receive a text message on their cell phone that gives them information about the functioning of their genset,” he adds.

Most smart generators are controlled by chips and sensors and remote on and off. They are managed by Cloud, and are self diagnostic. There are even mobile apps available for operating the genset.

The hybrid diesel gensets guarantee savings in terms of fuel consumption, service intervals and running hours with consequently longer genset life and lower opex. It is a complete off grid power system, specifically designed for telecom sites and remote areas. Operating as the main source or in back up mode it is able to work in even in harsh conditions. It is composed by a DC GenSet with a variable speed engine, deep cycle batteries and integrated hybrid logic which enables the management of all components and connections with other energy sources (Grid/PV Panels/Wind).

Ajit Kumar, marketing manager, portable energy division, Atlas Copco (India), says that their portable generators (smart generators) have a higher energy consumption and a lower fuel consumption. With Predictable Power, the company can predict the performance of the machine where for the load pattern the customer will get the same fuel economy and energy consumption. Interestingly, Atlas Copco has designed its gensets for fast and easy transportation and on-site handling on virtually any unprepared surface.

On the kind of smart generators that come from Perkins India, Pankaj Kumar Jha, general sales manager, says that the sets have the ability to use remote monitoring for various factors including the number of hours run, and monitor important parameters like temperature and pressure. “They are also capable of monitoring points like maintenance intervals and consumables change. End to end services on site assessment, load study and recommendations on the right customised smart solution, are also possible,” he adds.

Leaps of faith
Insofar as product innovations go, there is a general consensus among most companies that they need to offer a highly dependable and cost competitive product to their customers.

Gupta of Perkins India says that his company focuses on selling the value of products and support services, as customers in India evaluate and appreciate these factors while making their buying choices. “We work together with the customer to explain the benefits of our products, as this knowledge helps them make the right buying decision,” he adds.

Most people in the industry believe that product innovations should be a way of practice in day-to-day activities which can help evolve a comparative advantage among products. Contractors should prefer and select suitable Made In India products which is a noble concept and encourages the Indian industry.

For instance, Mahindra Powerol relies on the R&D expertise of Mahindra Research Valley (MRV) for an engineered diesel generator which has 30% less footprint than a normal DG and also weighs 20% less. Through the initiatives of Mahindra Susten, Mahindra Powerol has developed a generator using solar panel and in another initiative changed from a diesel gen erator to a gas based generator, says Palaniappan. “We have recently launched Super Shield plan, a first in India, wherein the user pays a one time service fee for a five year all-inclusive coverage.

Among other things
Generators are definitely not going out of fashion — be it in India or worldwide. It is probably the reason why several companies prefer to follow one global quality and performance standard. “Since we also export, we have them specially designed & tested to meet the local regulations of the countries we cater to. Care is taken to ensure that they are capable of withstanding extreme climatic conditions,” says Bagga.

In all this, what matters most is the novel steps taken to rev up the generators industry that has hitherto seen bulky, noisy, and not so sleek machines. All that is changing.

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