Small Modular Biopower System

Beginning in 1999, Community Power Corp (CPC) joined with NREL and Shell Renewables to develop a new generation of small modular biopower systems (SMB), designed to replace conventional diesel generators and to free communities from dependence on diesel fuel, with its high cost and environmental damage.

CPC’s fully automated SMB system can use a variety of biomass fuels to generate electricity and thermal energy for rural communities, enterprises and social services, and usually solving a agricultural residue disposal problem at the same time. The initial prototype SMB, rated at 12 1/2 kWe, is performing well in a Philippine village, since it’s commissioning on 2 April 2001.

With support from the Calif Energy Commission, CPC is now installing a second SMB on the Hoopa Valley Indian Tribe reservation in northern California. Fueled with forest residue, the unit will supply heat and power to a greenhouse, and CO2 enriched exhaust gases will also aid plant growth.

CPC’s advanced design, downdraft gasifier with fully integrated and automatic controls, produces an extremely clean combustible gas from a variety of woody fuels. The “producer” gas is conditioned and fed into a standard internal combustion engine genset for conversion to mechanical, electrical, and thermal power. Future systems will be adapted to SOFC fuel cells, microturbines, stirling and other IC engines.

Specifications and Features
– Combined heat and power operation for rural electrification and distributed generation applications;
– Environmentally friendly, non-condensing system without scrubbers, effluents or hazardous wastes;
– Fully automatic, closed-loop control of all components including gasifier, gas conditioning and genset;
– Dispatchable power within one minute of auto-startup ? uses no diesel fuel or gasoline;
– Fuel flexible: wood pellets, coconut shells, wood chips, corn cobs, palm nut shells;
– Electrical output in blocks from 5kWe to 25kWe; 120 and 240 VAC; 50 and 60 Hz;
– Modular, transportable, no need for on-site buildings or waste water disposal, 1 day installation.

Remarkably, Community Power actually first identified a market and need, and then developed SMB as the technology to meet it, rather than the other way around. The founders were experienced in the electrification of offgrid communities using conventional renewable energy technologies (PV, wind).

To serve this large, demanding market, (over 4 million communities) CPC specified a system that was sized for the typical un-electrified community; automated to prevent reliance on unskilled operators; mobile to facilitate easy installation and relocation; able to operate without the co-mixing of any fossil fuels; modular and scalable; and perhaps most importantly, one that met stringent environmental requirements with no liquid effluents or toxic wastes.

Worldwide, millions of potential customers annually dispose of billions of tons of forest and agricultural residues through burning or dumping, generating both air pollution and green house gases. Where these consumers have a sustainable source of biomass residue and where fossil fuel is either very expensive or not readily available, the SMB can be the lowest cost and greenest solution.

(A point that’s often missed in thinking about 3rd world village power– a large fraction of these communities do have currency, and already spend too much of it on energy, as currently their only choices are diesel or lead-acid batteries carried to distant charging stations–both of which are expensive and dirty. These communities can afford, and will welcome, to pay for a cheaper better local source of power.)

The company website has a great deal more information:

A recent slide presentation can be found at:

Contact: Robb R. Walt 303- 933-3135
Community Power Corp., Littleton, Co

There was a recent article in the Far Eastern Economic Review regarding CPC and the use of coconuts as fuel for their small modular bipower system that has been installed in the village of Alaminos in the Phillipines.

( 1 Aug email from Walt Robb, one of the founders)

Big news: Due to our efforts, by the end of September the DOE and US Forest Service will provide CPC with a non-competitive “Phase 3” add-on to our current SMB contract. The add-on will total $3.2 million over 2 1/2 years. We must secure $1.2 million of the $3.2 as cost share (38%). The cost share can come from multiple sources. Already, we have been contacted/visited by firms interested in the possibility of leveraging these funds.
Other news:
1. We have won two SBIR’s
2. California Energy Commission has specifically stated they are ready to give us a significant add-on to scale-up our SMB platform to 50 kW and conduct many more demos in California
3. The US Army has expressed interest in our 25kW SMB and 5 kW micro-modular biomass hybrid power system for their “Zero Foot Print Camp” program
4. A Massachusetts company has proposed a $350,000 demo in the state with state funding
5. The new trailer-mounted SMB for Hoopa is exceeding all of our expectations.
6. Art is back from vacation at Deep Creek Lake and didn’t catch any fish.

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