Founded in 1988 as a microturbine manufacturer for automotive turbochargers, Capstone Turbine Corp’s aero-based microturbine technology has grown to support multiple industries for small-scale, low-emission power generation, with more than 95 distributors worldwide. With scalable power generation from 30kW to 30MW, the company’s air-bearing microturbines can achieve overall efficiency levels of up to 80% in combined heat and power (CHP) applications and up to 90% in combined cooling, heat, and power (CCHP) applications.

Air bearing technology

Capstone Turbine’s microturbines’ low maintenance air bearing technology eliminates cooling system maintenance and coolant disposal issues, increasing efficiency and reducing downtime.

“We are the only microturbine company that does not use any lube oil or grease,” explains Darren Jamison, president and CEO of Capstone Turbine Corp. “The system has only one moving part, a patented air bearing, and no required coolants or lubricants. If you look at distributed generation behind the meter, most customers today don’t have the capacity to maintain power generation equipment. No one likes surprises when a unit shuts down, so having a highly reliable system that doesn’t require oil changes, antifreeze, or spark plug changes, is a better overall solution. We’re running 24 hours/365 days on almost all of our installations.”

Detailed rendering of Capstone’s new signature series C1000S microturbine.

The microturbines can operate on a variety of liquid or gaseous fuels including propane, biogas, wellhead gas, methane, landfill gas, digester gas, diesel, natural gas, kerosene, flare gas, and aviation fuel.

“Any organic compound that can be turned into biogas is useful,” Jamison says. “Customers traditionally look for the most affordable fuel options and then turn toward our microturbines as an economical and power saving solution.”

The microturbines can be installed individually or in a multi-pack configuration – functioning in parallel with or independently from the grid.

“We’re doing a lot more micro-grid applications with solar, wind, and storage technologies. The ability to operate on a variety of gaseous or liquid fuels makes our microturbines stand out as a robust source of clean and reliable energy,” Jamison says.

C800 microturbine in CCHP application

Though a globally branded product, the majority of Capstone Turbine’s customers are within the U.S., followed closely by Australia, Europe, and Mexico.

“Europe has historically been our second biggest market, but that has now shifted to Australia, which is now considered our second biggest market along with Mexico,” Jamison explains. “Mexico is going through a heavy energy reform to renewables and the same with Australia. With that being said, Latin America, the Caribbean, India, the Middle East, China, and Africa present significant future growth potential in these regions for our business.”

Oil field project in Libya

In April, Capstone Turbine secured an order for two C600 microturbines for an oil field project in Libya, expected to be commissioned in late 2016. The diesel-fired C600 microturbines will be installed in a standby power application and configured to back-up critical loads. In the event of a power outage, the microturbines will provide backup power to onsite water pumps and other oil and gas equipment. When needed, the electricity generated by the microturbines can cover nearly all the energy needs of the site, giving the customer enhanced reliability for operational stability.

“MicroTurbine Power is making impressive progress as we are diligently expanding our presence in the African oil and gas market,” says Jim Crouse, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Capstone Turbine. “By leveraging our demonstrated success in oil and gas operations around the world, Capstone is able to meet the demanding requirements of oil and gas producers in challenging environments such as Africa.”

According to the International Energy Agency, the growth in installed electricity generation in Libya reflects higher economic growth and greater investment in the oil and natural gas sectors. Despite the growth in electricity generation and a high electrification rate, Libya still suffers from regular power outages.

“Africa is a huge opportunity since they have an inadequate power infrastructure,” Jamison says. “If you look at Africa and parts of India and China, it makes sense to put small distributed power at the location. From a distributed standpoint, those areas are huge growth areas because the infrastructure just isn’t there.”

C800 microturbine in CCHP application
6MW order from Cartagena, Colombia

The company also recently received an order for six of its new C1000 Signature Series microturbines for a repeat customer in Cartagena, Colombia. Supernova Energy Services S.A.S., Capstone’s Colombian distributor, secured this new order, which will roll out in three phases starting January 2017.

The first phase, comprised of two natural gas-fueled C1000s, will be installed in a CCHP application and operate in stand-alone mode. The microturbines will provide primary electricity and district cooling for several buildings currently under development, including a hospital and a hotel. The second and third phases, which involve the remaining four C1000s, will follow. The project’s energy requirement of the project could reach a total of 10MW, which would require four additional C1000s.

Supporting a cyclical industry

Capstone Turbine launched the new C1000S signature series in December 2015 at the annual Power-Gen International show in Las Vegas.

“For this series, we took our bestselling oil and gas megawatt product, and came out with a more CHP centric version,” Jamison explains. “It has integrated heat recovery, better controls, and approximately 80% total efficiency. It’s a plug-and-play system with a 30ft x 8ft footprint.”

The company offers five and nine-year factory protection plans as an aftermarket service offering for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. In addition, Capstone Energy Finance provides organizations the ability to purchase electricity generated by one or more Capstone microturbines at their facility with no upfront capital costs. A Power Purchase Agreement from Capstone Energy Finance enables organizations to reduce their operating expenses by allowing them to buy electricity at a lower rate than what they currently pay.

Jamison says, “In the past, up to 70% of Capstone Turbine’s revenue has historically been from the oil and gas markets, for both onshore and offshore applications. In response to the downturn in the oil and gas industry, Capstone’s business model is focusing more heavily into the renewable energy and energy efficiency markets.”

Capstone Turbine Corp.

About the author: Arielle Campanalie is the associate editor for TES and can be reached at or 216.393.0240.