Types of Industrial Generators

Industrial generators are very different from residential models. These generators must withstand extreme usage for extended periods in less than ideal conditions. While sizes range from 20 kW to 2500 kW in output from 150 hp to 4000 hp engines, the types of industrial generators also vary. You do need to select the right type to get the maximum usage for your industrial needs.

Power Requirements

Generators are available that provide one phase or three phase power, 120 volts or 480 volts. Industrial applications normally call for three phase power generation or 480 volts. Generators for multiple requirements include those that provide 120 – 208 volt service and 277 – 480 volt service. Manufacturers of industrial generators include Caterpillar, Cummins, MTU, Kohler, Katolight, and Generac.

Diesel Generators

Diesel engines are noted for durability, long-life and normally lower maintenance. A diesel engine operating at 1800 rpm can run from 12,000 to 30,000 hours between major maintenance services. The same gas powered engine may need major servicing after 6,000 to 10,000 hours of operation.

Diesel fuel burns cooler than gasoline reducing the heat, and the wear, on the engine. Power produced from diesel generators can also be lower in cost through the increased efficiency, higher energy density, of diesel fuel. While diesel was formally a “dirty” fuel, improvements in engine technology have reduced diesel emissions. Blends of up to 20% biodiesel can normally be used safely in regular diesel engines.

Natural Gas Generators

Natural gas generators use propane or liquefied petroleum gas. Natural gas offers the advantage of easy storage in below or above ground tanks. It is also a clean burning fuel, reducing problems with emissions. Generators that run on natural gas are durable but they can be more expensive in initial purchase.

While natural gas is often less expensive than other fuels, it must be trucked to your facility, which can increase the operating costs. A natural gas generator has a lower output than a similar sized diesel generator. You may need to move up a size to get the same results. Natural gas generators are an excellent choice for technology providers as a backup power source.


Gasoline powered generators usually have a lower purchase price. While gas generators can run for long periods, they do require maintenance that is more extensive. The gasoline deteriorates rubber components causing the engine to wear faster. Gasoline storage is more difficult due to a higher potential for fire or explosion. In addition, the gasoline itself deteriorates making long-term storage a less than ideal choice. Gasoline generators are not the best choice for larger industrial applications.

Portable Industrial Generators

Portable industrial generators are trailer-mounted versions, not the type that you can simply pull behind you as you walk. Large portable generators make an excellent choice for use on construction sites before an electrical supply is established. These are also frequently used by emergency responders when a large amount of power is needed on location.

Marine Generators

Commercial or industrial grade marine generators are designed to withstand rugged environmental conditions. Caterpillar, Kohler and Cummins are three of the manufacturers that build marine specific generators. This type of generator is required for use near salt water and recommended for large vessels or oil rigs. While marine generators are available as gas or diesel powered, diesel is the choice for industrial use.

Heavy Fuel Oil Generators

Heavy fuel oil generators offer significant fuel savings over the cost of diesel fuel. The overall generator size can often be smaller due to the use of a small higher speed engine. Wartsila is one manufacturer of heavy fuel oil generators. This fuel comes under the category of number 5 or 6 fuel oil and the availability of heavy fuel oil must be considered when selecting this type of generator.

Generator Sizing

You will need to consider your total power requirements in kilowatts to choose the correct generator size. The type of equipment that you will be operating also factors into the equation. Equipment with motors or compressors draw more power on startup than while in operating mode. You could well overload your generator if you do not account for this in your total needs. As a rule of thumb, determine your maximum need and add 20% to the total for safety.

Worldwide Power Products has both new and used industrial generators for emergency back-up and continuous use. Contact us and we can help you determine the amount of power and best type of generator for your needs.