Title:
Interface for system for generating electric power
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An interface for facilitates at least one of control and monitoring of a system for generating electric power, the system including a control panel. The interface may include a compartment configured to be operably associated with a housing defining an interior at least partially containing the system for generating electric power. The interface may further include at least one electrical connector contained within the compartment, and an access panel operably associated with the compartment. The access panel may be configured to facilitate selective access to an interior of the compartment from an exterior of the housing. The at least one electrical connector may be configured to be coupled to an electric line electrically connected to the control panel and an electric line extending to a location exterior to the housing.



Inventors:
Errera, Michael R. (Milner, GA, US)
Shipman, David A. (McDonough, GA, US)
Slaughter, Nelson H. (Locust Grove, GA, US)
Application Number:
12/216219
Publication Date:
12/31/2009
Filing Date:
07/01/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
361/627
International Classes:
H02B1/26
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
THOMAS, BRADLEY H
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Caterpillar/finnegan, Henderson L. L. P. (901 New York Avenue, NW, WASHINGTON, DC, 20001-4413, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An interface for facilitating at least one of control and monitoring of a system for generating electric power, the system including a control panel, the interface comprising: a compartment configured to be operably associated with a housing defining an interior at least partially containing the system for generating electric power; at least one electrical connector contained within the compartment; and an access panel operably associated with the compartment, the access panel being configured to facilitate selective access to an interior of the compartment from an exterior of the housing, wherein the at least one electrical connector is configured to be coupled to an electric line electrically connected to the control panel and an electric line extending to a location exterior to the housing.

2. The interface of claim 1, further including at least one latch operably coupled to the access panel.

3. The interface of claim 2, wherein the at least latch is configured to selectively lock the access panel in a closed position.

4. The interface of claim 1, further including a gasket operably coupled to one of the compartment and the access panel, the gasket configured to provide a weather-resistant seal between the compartment and the access panel.

5. The interface of claim 1, wherein the access panel is hingedly coupled to the compartment.

6. The interface of claim 1, wherein the housing includes a trailer defining a side, a front wall, and at least one rear door, and the interface is configured to be located in one of the side, the front wall, and the rear door.

7. The interface of claim 1, wherein the compartment and the access panel are configured such that an exterior face of the access panel is flush with the housing when the access panel is in a closed position.

8. The interface of claim 1, wherein the at least one electrical connector is configured to connect at least one of load sharing lines and shore power connection lines.

9. The interface of claim 1, wherein the at least one electrical connector is configured to connect at least one of control lines and status signal lines.

10. A system for generating electric power, the system comprising: an engine configured to output mechanical power; an electric machine configured to convert mechanical power into electric power, the electric machine being operably coupled to the engine; a control panel configured to facilitate control of at least one of the engine and the electric machine; a housing configured to contain at least one of the engine, the electric machine, and the control panel, the housing including at least one wall configured to define at least an exterior of the housing; and an interface operably associated with the at least one wall, the interface being configured to facilitate operable connection, to the control panel, of electric wires and/or power cables extending exterior of the housing.

11. The system of claim 10, wherein the housing includes a trailer defining the at least one wall, and wherein the interface is located in the at least one wall.

12. The system of claim 10, wherein the interface includes a compartment and an access panel operably associated with the compartment, and wherein the compartment and the access panel are configured such that an exterior face of the access panel is flush with the housing when the access panel is in a closed position.

13. The system of claim 10, wherein the interface includes: a compartment operably associated with the housing; and at least one electrical connector contained within the compartment.

14. The system of claim 13, wherein the at least one electrical connector is coupled to an electric line electrically connected to the control panel and an electric line extending to a location exterior to the housing.

15. The system of claim 13, further including an access panel configured to facilitate selective access to an interior of the compartment from exterior the housing

16. The system of claim 15, further including at least one latch operably coupled to the access panel.

17. The system of claim 16, wherein the at least latch is configured to selectively lock the access panel in a closed position.

18. The system of claim 15, further including a gasket operably coupled to one of the compartment and the access panel, the gasket configured to provide a weather-resistant seal between the compartment and the access panel.

19. The system of claim 15, wherein the access panel is hingedly coupled to the compartment.

20. The system of claim 10, wherein the interface defines a compartment and the housing defines an aperture configured to facilitate operable connection, to an electrical connector located within the compartment of the interface, of electric wires and/or power cables extending exterior of the housing.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of priority under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/______, filed Jun. 25, 2008 [Title: SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR GENERATING ELECTRIC POWER; Attorney Docket No.: 08350.6990], the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure relates to an interface, and more particularly, to an interface for a system for generating electric power.

BACKGROUND

It may be desirable to generate electric power, for example, in situations in which electric power is not available from an electric power utility source, for example, in remote locations and/or locations experiencing a power outage. This may be accomplished, for example, using electric power generation systems that are configured to generate electric power via operation of one or more internal combustion engines to drive an electric machine configured to convert mechanical energy supplied by the one or more engines into electric power.

The user of such power generating systems may desire to monitor the status of the power generating systems from a location exterior to the power generating system. Moreover, it may be desirable to control the power generating system from an exterior location, such as, for example, the location of the systems and/or devices that will receive the electric power being supplied by the power generating system. For example, if a system for generating electric power is used to supply electric power to a building or group of buildings, it may be desirable to control the power generating system via controls associated with the one or more buildings. Further, it may be desirable to coordinate operation of more than one power generation system supplying power to an end user. As a result, it may be desirable to provide the power generating system with an interface for facilitating control and/or monitoring of the status of the power generating system(s) from a location exterior to the power generating system(s).

A mobile power generation system is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,765,304 issued to Baten et al. (“the '304 patent”). The '304 patent discloses a mobile power generation system including a main trailer having an engine and an electric generator turned by the engine. The system of the '304 patent further includes an air filtration trailer having air filtration equipment, an exhaust trailer having part of an exhaust silencing system for reducing engine output noise, and an auxiliary trailer having equipment for use during operation of the engine. The '304 patent does not disclose, however, an interface for controlling operation and/or monitoring the status of a power generation system from exterior to the power generation system.

The systems and methods described in an exemplary manner in the present disclosure may be directed to mitigating or overcoming one or more of the drawbacks set forth above.

SUMMARY

In one aspect, the present disclosure includes an interface for facilitating at least one of control and monitoring of a system for generating electric power, the system including a control panel. The interface may include a compartment configured to be operably associated with a housing defining an interior at least partially containing the system for generating electric power. The interface may further include at least one electrical connector contained within the compartment and an access panel operably associated with the compartment. The access panel may be configured to facilitate selective access to an interior of the compartment from an exterior of the housing. The at least one electrical connector may be configured to be coupled to an electric line electrically connected to the control panel and an electric line extending to a location exterior to the housing.

According to a further aspect, a system for generating electric power may include an engine configured to output mechanical power and an electric machine configured to convert mechanical power into electric power. The electric machine may be operably coupled to the engine. The system may further include a control panel configured to facilitate control of at least one of the engine and the electric machine, and a housing configured to contain at least one of the engine and the electric machine. The housing may include at least one wall configured to define at least an exterior of the housing. The system may also include an interface operably associated with the at least one wall, the interface being configured to facilitate operable connection, to the control panel, of electric wires and/or power cables extending exterior of the housing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic, partial cutaway plan view of an exemplary embodiment of a system for generating electric power.

FIG. 2 is a schematic, partial cutaway elevation view of the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of an interface.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIGS. 1 and 2 show an exemplary embodiment of a system 10 for generating electric power. System 10 may include an engine 12 configured to supply mechanical power and an electric machine 14 operably coupled to engine 12 and configured to convert mechanical power into electric power. Engine 12 may be any internal combustion engine, including a spark-ignition engine, a compression ignition engine, a homogeneous-charge compression-ignition engine, and/or a gas turbine engine. Engine 12 may be configured to run on any fuel, such as, for example, gasoline, diesel fuel including bio-diesel fuel, natural gas, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, and/or any combinations thereof. Other types of engines and fuels are contemplated. Electric machine 14 may be any type of electric generator known to those skilled in the art. For example, electric machine 14 may include a three-phase AC synchronous generator.

System 10 may further include power load connections 16 configured to facilitate supply of electric power generated by system 10 to any device or system that receives input of a source of electric power, such as, for example, a power grid. According to some embodiments, a number of systems 10 may be coupled to one another and/or used together to supply additional electric power.

As depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2, exemplary system 10 may include one or more control panels 18 configured to control operation of engine 12, electric machine 14, and/or any systems associated with system 10. For example, control panel(s) 18 may include electronic control systems configured to control operation of engine 12 and/or electric machine 14, such that system 10 supplies electric power in a desired and/or controlled manner. According to some embodiments, control panel 18 may include an interface for providing an operator with information or data relating to operation of engine 12 and/or electric machine 14, and further, may include controls configured to facilitate an operator's ability to control operation of engine 12, electric machine 14, and/or any other systems associated with system 10. For example, control panel 18 may facilitate an operator's control of the electric power output of system 10, for example, by controlling the voltage and frequency of the power output.

According to the exemplary embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, system 10 may include a housing 20 configured to provide protection to various components of system 10. For example, housing 20 may include walls, for example, opposing sidewalls 22, a front wall 24, and one or more rear doors 26, a floor 28, and a roof 30, defining an exterior and, possibly also, an interior of housing 20. According to some embodiments, system 10 may include one or more devices 32 configured to facilitate transport of system 10 between sites that may desire a supply of electric power. For example, the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1 includes a number of wheels for facilitating towing of system 10 via a vehicle, such as a truck or tractor (e.g., housing 20 may be in the form at least similar to a trailer configured to be towed in a manner similar to trailers of a tractor trailer rig). Other types of devices 32 (e.g., tracks, wheels configured to travel along railroad tracks, pontoons, and/or skids) known to those skilled in the art are contemplated. As explained in more detail herein, some embodiments of housing 20 may define one or more passages between an exterior of housing 20 and an interior of housing 20.

According to some embodiments, system 10 may include a reservoir 34 (e.g., a fuel tank) within the interior of housing 20 for providing a supply of fuel to engine 12. Reservoir 34 may be coupled to engine 12 via one or more fuels lines (not shown). According to some embodiments, reservoir 34 may be located external to housing 20 and/or fuel may be supplied via an external source, such as, for example, a pipe line for supplying a fuel, such as, for example, gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, hydrogen, ethanol, methanol, and/or any combinations thereof.

According to some embodiments, system 10 may include a cooling system 36 configured to regulate the temperature of engine 12 and/or electric machine 14. For example, cooling system 36 may include one or more heat exchangers 38, such as, for example, one or more air-to-air-after-coolers (ATAAC) operably coupled to engine 12 and/or one or more radiators 40, such as, for example, a jacket water radiator, operably coupled to engine 12. According to some embodiments, engine 12 may include one or more turbochargers (not shown), and heat exchanger(s) 38 may be operably coupled to the one or more turbochargers to cool air entering the turbocharger(s). System 10 may include one or more fans (not shown), for example, located between engine 12 and heat exchanger 38. Such a fan may be operably coupled to engine 12 via a drive belt (not shown) and/or may be driven via an electric motor (not shown), and may supply a flow of air to and/or through heat exchanger 38 in order to provide cooling air to heat exchanger 38.

Exemplary radiator(s) 40 may be configured to receive and cool a flow of coolant (e.g., a liquid coolant), which may be circulated into and/or through engine 12 via coolant lines (not shown), thereby cooling engine 12. One or more fans 42 may be associated with radiator 40 and may be configured to provide a flow of cooling air to radiator 40. Fan(s) 42 may be driven, for example, via an electric motor (not shown), which may be coupled to fan 42 via, for example, a belt drive (not shown).

According to some embodiments, engine 12 may include an exhaust system 44 (see FIGS. 1 and 2) configured to remove heat and/or combustion products from housing 20. For example, exhaust system 44 may include roof-mounted muffler 46 in flow communication with engine 12. Exhaust system 44 may further include one or more extensions 48 downstream of muffler 46 configured to provide a flow path for exhaust gas from engine 12 to the exterior of housing 20 via muffler 46. For example, as shown in FIG. 1, extension(s) 48 may extend above heat exchanger 38 from muffler 46 to one or more opening(s) 50 in roof 30, such that exhaust gas exits via opening(s) 50.

According to some embodiments, for example, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, system 10 may include an interface 52 for facilitating control and/or monitoring of system 10. For example, one or more of opposing side walls 22 of housing 20 may define an opening 54 for providing access to interface 52, and an access panel 56 may provide selective access to interface 52.

According to some embodiments, interface 52 may include a compartment 58 operably coupled, for example, to side wall 22 of housing 20 (e.g., at least partially recessed within side wall 22). Compartment 58 and/or housing 20 may define a peripheral recess 60, which may be provided with a gasket 62 configured to provide a weather-resistant (e.g., water-resistant) sealing engagement with a corresponding surface 64 on a rear side of access panel 56. According to some embodiments, access panel 56 may be hingedly coupled to housing 20 and/or compartment 58. Access panel 56 may include one or more latches 66 (e.g., locking latches) configured secure access panel 56 in a closed position with respect to compartment 58, for example, such that an exterior face of the access panel 56 is generally flush with respect to side wall 22.

Compartment 58 may define a number of apertures (not shown) for facilitating extension of electric power and/or control lines 67 (e.g., wires and/or cables) from within housing 20 (e.g., electric lines from control panel 18) to an interior of compartment 58. Interface 52 may further include one or more electrical connectors 68 within the interior of compartment 58.

For example, as shown in FIG. 3, interface 52 may include one or more electrical connectors 70 configured to facilitate coordination of load sharing between a number of power generation systems at least similar to exemplary system 10. For example, electrical connectors 70 may be connectors consistent with, for example, MODBUS protocol. According to some embodiments, system 10 may include control panel(s) 18 that include controller(s) that are configured to coordinate the power load among a number of electric power generation systems that may be operably coupled to one another to collectively supply electric power (e.g., via a load sharing strategy) to an end user. Electrical connectors 70 may facilitate communication between system 10 and other electric power generation systems to facilitate such coordination.

According to some embodiments, interface 52 may include electrical connectors 72 configured to provide electric connection for 120 and/or 240 volt applications, such as, for example, shore connections, which may include, for example, connections for providing power to battery chargers included with system 10, power for jacket water heaters, and/or other devices/systems included in system 10, for example, to maintain system 10 in a “ready-to-run” status. According to some embodiments, interface 52 may include electrical connectors 74 configured to provide connection for, for example, electric lines for communicating control signals and/or operation status signals associated with system 10. For example, electrical connectors 74 may be configured to connect electric wire having gauges ranging from, for example, about 12 gauge to about 18 gauge, for example, 16 gauge. Such electric wires may carry, for example, DC signals.

According to some embodiments, electric power, control, and/or status signal lines extending from the interior of housing 20 may be connected to electrical connectors 68, which may facilitate connection of electric power, control, and/or status lines extending from a location exterior to housing 20. According to some embodiments, housing 20 may include an opening to facilitate entry of lines extending exterior to housing 20 into interface 52 without necessitating opening of access panel 56. For example, as shown in FIG. 3, side wall 22 of housing 20 may define an aperture 76 for receiving such exteriorly extending lines (not shown) and connecting them to electrical connectors 68.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

Exemplary system 10 may be used to generate electric power, for example, in situations in which electric power is not available from an electric power utility source, for example, in remote locations and/or locations experiencing a power outage. One or more engines 12 of exemplary system 10 may be configured to output mechanical power and one or more electric machines 14 may be configured to convert mechanical power into electric power. One or more control panels 18 may be configured to facilitate control of at least one of engine 12 and electric machine 14. Housing 20 may be configured to contain at least one of engine 12 and electric machine 14. Housing 20 may define an interior, and interface 52 may be operably associated with at least one wall of housing 20, and interface 52 may be configured to facilitate operable connection of electric wires and/or power cables from the exterior of housing 20 to control panel(s) 18.

Interface 52 may include one or more electrical connectors 70 configured to facilitate coordination of load sharing between a number of power generation systems at least similar to exemplary system 10. For example, electrical connectors 70 may be connectors consistent with, for example, MODBUS protocol, and control panel(s) 18 of system 10 may include controller(s) that are configured to coordinate the power load among a number of electric power generation systems that may be operably coupled to one another to collectively supply electric power (e.g., via a load sharing strategy) to an end user. Electrical connectors 70 may facilitate communication between system 10 and other electric power generation systems to facilitate such coordination.

Interface 52 may include electrical connectors 72 configured to provide electric connection for 120 and/or 240 volt applications (or, for example, 100 and/or 200 volt applications), such as, for example, shore connections, which may include, for example, connections for providing power to battery chargers included with system 10, power for jacket water heaters, and/or other devices/systems included in system 10, for example, to maintain system 10 in a “ready-to-run” status. According to some embodiments, interface 52 may include electrical connectors 74 configured to provide connection for, for example, electric lines for communicating control signals and/or operation status signals associated with system 10. For example, electrical connectors 74 may be configured to connect electric wire having gauges ranging from, for example, about 12 gauge to about 18 gauge, for example, 16 gauge. Such electric wires may carry, for example, DC signals.

Electric power, control, and/or status signal lines extending from the interior of housing 20 may be connected to electrical connectors 68, which may facilitate connection of electric power, control, and/or status lines extending from a location exterior to housing 20. According to some embodiments, housing 20 may include an opening to facilitate entry of lines extending exterior to housing 20 into interface 52 without necessitating opening of access panel 56. For example, side wall 22 of housing 20 may define an aperture 76 for receiving such exteriorly extending lines (not shown) and connecting them to electrical connectors 68.

It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made to the exemplary disclosed systems for generating electric power. Other embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art from consideration of the specification and practice of the exemplary disclosed systems and methods. It is intended that the specification and examples be considered as exemplary only.