The diesel, or compression-ignition, engine is one of the four principal types of internal combustion engine; that is, it is a machine that converts the chemical energy released from the burning of a fuel in an internal combustion chamber directly to mechanical energy.

Although the diesel is a reciprocating machine, its mechanical energy is transferred from the engine by means of a rotating shaft that may be used to drive other mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, or electrical machines and equipment.

Worldwide there are many diesel engines manufacturers, and the engine types available range from extremely powerful low-speed two-stroke engines of up to 70 MW to high-speed automotive-type engines to low-power portable units of less than 2 kW (1.492 hp).

In industrial and marine applications, diesel engines are used mainly in the generation of electrical power, both ac and dc. In this article the topics addressed are the diesel engine itself and the production of ac power by diesel-powered generators.

The main uses of diesel-generators are:

1. For base-load duties in locations where there is no utility supply—that is, usually in remote locations, on islands, or on ships and submarines.

2. As independent power sources where it is essential to ensure that a continuous supply of electrical power of acceptable quality is maintained at all times. Such systems are usually referred to as uninterruptable power systems or no break systems.

3. For ‘‘peak-lopping’’ or ‘‘peak-shaving’’ duties to limit the maximum or peak demand from a utility supply and so reduce the premium unit charge rate and hence the overall cost of the supply.

4. As standby or emergency power generation in case of major failure (blackouts) or partial shutdowns (brownouts) of the main or utility supply. (Such units are common in telecommunication centers, hospitals, mainframe centers, major financial institutions, and government buildings.)

5. Transportable (usually trailer mounted) generation units for providing temporary increases in the main supply especially in remote areas.

6. As part of a cogeneration, sometimes titled CHP (combined heat and power), plant.

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