This article discusses a new powerhouse in the rental of portable energy systems to utilities, industrial plants, and special-events producers. It was formed by the recent launch of GE Energy Rentals and its subsequent acquisition of Showpower Inc. in Rancho Dominguez, CA. Although the merger does not directly involve Hollywood movie studios, broadcast or cable television stations, or sports arenas, it will affect all of them because it will provide entertainment companies, as well as utilities and process plants, with electricity generated from portable power plants. Utilities use GE Energy Rental systems to provide temporary power during the seasonal peak energy demand periods and during emergency or scheduled utility shutdowns. Mining operations rent the GE energy systems to generate base-load power and maintain their mines and tunnels in remote locations. GE Energy Rentals is also aiming its products and services toward climate control applications. Both Showpower and GE Energy Rentals manufacture and operate chillers and air conditioning units that are used to cool special events, or to substitute for HVAC systems that fail.
There is literally a new powerhouse in the rental of portable energy systems to utilities, industrial plants, and special-events producers. It was formed by the recent launch of GE Energy Rentals and its subsequent acquisition of Showpower Inc. in Rancho Dominguez, Calif. Although the merger does not directly involve Hollywood movie studios, broadcast or cable television stations, or sports arenas, it will affect all of them because it will provide entertainment companies, as well as utilities and process plants, with electricity generated from portable power plants.
GE Power Systems of Schenectady, N.Y., launched its GE Energy Rentals business in June last year in response to a growing demand for temporary distributed power and climate control in the commercial, industrial, oil and gas, and not least, special-events markets.
The connection with events drove GE Power Systems’ interest in the entertainment energy company. “Showpower is an ideal strategic fit for us,” said Martin Moore, GE Energy Rentals’ president. Moore explained that GE Energy Rentals would draw upon Showpower’s technical and operational skills to increase its presence in commercial and industrial portable energy markets, as well as to serve the entertainment customers that Showpower currently serves.
Showpower’s CEO, John Campion, described the acquisition of his company as “a unique opportunity to enhance the level of service provided to Showpower’s traditional customers.” Campion said the deal also will enable Showpower to reshape the broader power equipment rental industry by leveraging GE Power Systems’ sales and services and GE’s brand recognition.
GE Energy Rentals brings a strong presence in industrial power rental, ranging from residential-scale 6-kilowatt generating sets to 1,350-kW diesel-fueled generating sets that are transported on trailers to serve a host of applications. For example, GE Energy Rentals’ system can provide oil and gas companies with power during both planned maintenance and unplanned shutdowns. In addition, the company’s rental systems power motors for onshore and offshore pumps.
Utilities use GE Energy Rental systems to provide temporary power during the seasonal peak energy demand periods and during emergency or scheduled utility shutdowns. Mining operations rent the GE energy systems to generate baseload power and maintain their mines and tunnels in remote locations. Pharmaceutical clients can make their batch processing more flexible by means of the GE Energy Rentals equipment, while construction companies light their sites and power their tools with GE’s portable power plants. Areas struck by natural disaster rely on the rented power systems for backup power until their power grids can be restored.
The new company will provide one-stop shopping for producers of entertainment and special-events businesses.
Giant With a Small Footprint
The latest power generation system developed by GE Energy Rentals is the TM2500. This version of GE’s proven LM2500 aeroderivative gas turbine-generator set fits on four trailers and provides 22.8 megawatts, making it the largest mobile gas turbine generator in the rental market.
“We developed the TM2500 as part of our strategy to reshape the energy rental industry,” said Moore. “Our customers don’t want power equipment; they want power. With the TM2500, we offer our clients planning, logistics, operating and maintenance services, as well as power generation, so that they can concentrate on what they do best.”
The TM2500 is aimed at utilities and large-scale industrial facilities, such as paper mills or steel mills. Traditionally, these end users had to install 20 1-MW diesel systems linked together to meet derating requirements. “Because power comes out of 1-MW diesels at 480 volts, rather than the 13,800 volts provided by a grid, these installations require a transformer and cabling,” noted Moore. Add the diesel fuel tanks, hoses, and 20 generating sets, and such installations become complex and space-consuming.
“We wanted to design an energy system capable of generating more than 20 MW that could be transported on a couple of trailers by adapting GE’s LM2500 aeroderivative gas turbine,” said Moore. The small footprint of the LM2500, developed for aircraft, and used in marine and land-based applications where space is tight, made it ideal for rental applications.
“We gave the operating criteria to S&S Energy Products in Houston, which has extensive experience packaging the LM2500,” recalled Moore. “It had to be able to fit on no more than four trailers, be road transportable, burn either distillate oil or natural gas, and
produce 90 decibels at 3 meters.”
One trailer carries the turbine-generator, another holds the inlet filter, a third trailer supports the exhaust, and an auxiliary trailer holds backup equipment. These trailers enable the entire system to be disassembled, and transported by road, rail, or ship to be assembled on-site.
GE Energy Rentals personnel would visit the site prior to installation to optimize the TM2500 layout, for example, by locating it close to the fuel source. As part of the company’s strategy of providing value-added services, GE Energy Rentals will supply and operate compression equipment to pressurize natural gas fuel to the 375 pounds per square inch required to feed the system. The company also will provide and operate a portable demineralization unit made by Glegg Water Conditioning of Guelph, Ontario, another company recently acquired by GE, to treat water fed to the power system for nitrogen oxide suppression as low as 25 parts per million for natural gas fuel.
The TM2500 produces 13,800 volts that can be fed directly into power grids, thereby potentially eliminating the transformer and cabling that are required by a linked diesel system.
The energy system produces either 50 Hz or 60 Hz power to serve the summer peaking season in North America, and the winter peaking seasons in South America and Europe. The first five TM2500 packages will be rented to a midwestern utility in June to provide up to 110 MW of peak shaving power to meet summer demand. “We also see opportunities for the TM2500 in energy-intensive process industries, such as paper mills or steel mills, during emergency outages or natural disasters,” said Moore.
Showpower’s portable power generation systems have been used at a wide variety of broadcast events since the company was formed in 1987 by Campion. For example, Showtime cable television used the equipment at its 1989 pay-per-view Rolling Stones concert in Atlantic City, and NBC-TV used Showpower systems at Super Bowl XXXII, played in San Diego in 1998. Showpower will provide services at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Portability has brought the systems onto the concert tour circuit, including Tina Turner’s Wildest Dreams Tour across Europe in 1996 and the KISS Alive/Worldwide Reunion Tour that spanned the globe in 1996 and 1997. Showpower’s energy systems provided the power for the apocalyptic motion picture Armageddon, as well as to Hollywood’s paean to Las Vegas chorus lines, Showgirls. Showpower also supports numerous corporate events and conventions worldwide. In addition to its locations in California, Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, and Texas, the company has overseas branches in Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Showpower brings to GE Energy Rentals a family of portable power generation systems that have proven themselves welcome in virtually every entertainment venue. The Mark IV is the latest of Showpower’s paralleled engine systems designed specifically for the entertainment and special-events business. They weigh less than 25,000 pounds and are housed in a 20-foot container so they can be transported by air or driven on a single 40-foot trailer. Sound insulation and mufflers hold their noise level below the standard 60 decibels at 25 feet.
Two 500-hp, turbocharged, and aftercooled engines power the Mark IV system. The engines and voltage regulation are digitally controlled, and isochronous load sharing and paralleling technologies permit one or more generators to operate, and more generators to be added to the system. The Mark IV’s redundant power reduces the possibility of failure during critical show times and broadcast coverage.
Designing for Airmobility
The newest of Showpower’s portable energy systems is the Flypak DG-35. As its name implies, the system was designed for transportation on most types of commercial aircraft. The power system consists of two 175-kW generators to provide redundant power. The generators are housed in a specially designed aircraft container that weighs less than 8,000 pounds.
The energy system’s container is made of a metallic composite shaped into a honeycomb structure. Showpower engineers put engine controls, access doors, and a fuel tank in the Flypak container. Forklift tubes in the enclosure simplify moving the unit from plane to truck, and from truck to site.
The Showpower design team kept down the noise levels of the Flypak to 65 decibels at 10 meters by equipping it with low-speed fans, oversize radiators, cowl muffler systems, and insulation.
The Flypak is equipped with power switching systems, enabling its generators to be turned on and off without an interruption in power. Each generator is assigned a micro logic controller to digitally govern each engine and to regulate voltage. The two generators are designed to provide isochronous load sharing and parallel operation to allow one or both generators to operate, as well as to permit the addition of other generators to the system.
GE Energy Rentals is also aiming its products and services toward climate control applications. Both Showpower and GE Energy Rentals manufacture and operate chillers and air conditioning units that are used to cool special events, or to substitute for HVAC systems that fail.
In February, GE Energy Rentals strengthened its cooling presence by purchasing Spot Coolers of Miami Inc., a leading provider of rental air conditioning and power generation equipment and services in south Florida. Spot Coolers has regularly supported special events held in the humid region, among them the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show and The Winston Cup Nascar Race.
“Strategic acquisitions, product diversification, and the addition of new geographic locations play a key role in our customer-focused growth plan,” said Robert L. Nardelli, president and CEO of GE Power Systems. “We are committed to the energy rental industry, and intend to offer our customers the most comprehensive selection of value-added power and climate solutions.”