How on-site cogeneration can enhance energy security

Aug. 4, 2014
Grid-free power when you need it most.

Mission-critical facilities typically require reliable and often redundant sources of energy. A proven method to achieve these requirements is installation of cogeneration equipment to generate electric power for critical systems, as well as thermal energy in the form of steam or hot/chilled water.

Redundancy and emergency

Eric Erpenbeck, P.E., is manager of mechanical engineering, as well as lead engineer with the Central Utilities Group, at Fosdick & Hilmer, a consulting engineering firm based in Cincinnati. Erpenbeck is an expert in the design and analysis of central heating and cooling plants and distribution systems. During his time with the firm, he’s been the project manager for numerous central plant and distribution projects including steam and chilled water plants, combined heat and power systems, fuel oil storage, and integrated HVAC systems. Contact Erpenbeck at [email protected].

Cogeneration equipment typically burns natural gas — No. 2 fuel oil as backup fuel — to generate electric power and recover waste heat from the combustion process in the form of steam or hot water. Cogeneration plants can be designed to provide uninterruptible electric power, as well as bumpless transfers between the utility and on-site generation providing the owner with continuous power in the event of a utility outage.

For facilities whose mission includes the protection of people, equipment, products, or data, a cogeneration unit designed with black-start and island-mode capabilities can help to fulfill the facility’s mission even when public utilities have spontaneously failed.

At what price

For mission-critical facilities, a cogeneration plant can also result in financial savings when compared to current electric and natural gas rates and additional redundant equipment and electric feeder requirements.

While the initial cost of cogeneration units will usually exceed the cost of alternatives such as standby diesel generators or redundant boilers, the substantial utility cost savings that can often be realized through cogeneration can provide an attractive return on the incremental investment.

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