Two Projects Suggest that Cogeneration is Heating Up

January 8, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

cogenerationFrom the conceptual standpoint, cogeneration makes a tremendous amount of sense. After all, it’s difficult to argue with the idea of meeting two needs with a single platform.

The good news for proponents is that use of cogeneration – combined heat and power – is growing. Two examples of the progress that is being made are projects in New York City and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

In New York, Tecogen yesterday announced that it has won a contract to install two of its InVerde 100kW cogeneration modules in a luxury apartment that is being built in the Astoria/Long Island City section of Queens, which is a very hot area near Manhattan. The two units will be powered by natural gas and, according to the press release, could almost halve both operating costs and carbon emissions from traditional approaches.

The modules will be installed on the roof of the building. Jeff Glick, Tecogen’s Vice President of Eastern Sales, said that the approach makes sense because of the layout. “The roof location was selected because the building’s mechanical room is located in the penthouse one floor below the roof level,” he told Energy Manager Today. “Space is limited in the mechanical room so with the utilities close by, it makes a lot of sense.”

The use of the top down approach will make things a bit easier, Glick indicated. “Exhaust piping and piping to the outdoor mounted radiators will actually be much simpler,” he said. “Need for room ventilation goes away. The rest of the mechanical and electrical work won’t be any more difficult compared to an inside installation. Outdoor installations are in many instances preferred.”

A new build also is offers financial advantages, according to Glick. “Generally a CHP installation in a new construction project can be less expensive,” Glick wrote. “The contractors are already onsite and will be installing the building’s mechanical systems. Adding the CHP units and their accessories can be done at the same time. Also, Tecogen can work with the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineer during the building design instead of having to work with an existing system which might already have operational issues.”

CHP also is finding use in retrofits. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is in the midst of a major — and long — cogeneration project. The school, which has committed to cutting 32 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, has used cogeneration for two decades. It now is set to expand that approach. The Central Utilities Plant (CUP) Second Century Project will replace the existing turbine, install a second turbine and complete a chilled water plant project that began all the way back in 2008.

It’s not surprising that an engineer project of this type undertaken at a place such as MIT would be very carefully researched:

Beginning in 2003, MIT began evaluating a wide range of options that could provide power, heat, and cooling to the campus once the existing turbine was ready for replacement. The evaluation process showed that an upgrade of the on-campus cogeneration system, compared with various methods of procuring electricity and/or steam from off-campus sources, was the most effective, appropriate, and sustainable way to meet MIT’s near-future energy needs as it advances its robust research and teaching initiatives.

The plans are ambitious. By 2020 the two turbines and heat recovery system will be housed in an enhanced facility. At that point, fuel oil only will be used in emergencies.

CHP is catching on. Last month, Frost & Sullivan released a report that pointed to a positive future for the approach. The press release points out that about 87 percent of CHP units provide heat and power for industrial uses. Thus, MIT and Tecogen initiatives represent moves into largely unchartered waters for CHP.

Despite the sense that the technology dovetails with the increased emphasis on efficiency and the growth opportunities presented by new markets, Frost & Sullivan suggests that the growth of CHP will be modest: The estimated market was $1.50 billion in 2014 and will grow to $1.95 billion in 2021.

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