Design in a Time of Uncertainty
By Rives Taylor, Principal, Global Resilience Research Lead
Up until recently, much of the climate change conversation has been on mitigating climate change through emission reductions. However, as the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere topped 400 ppm and as severe weather events become more common, there has been greater focus on community adaptation or resilience. Understanding that the globe needs to bring CO2 below 350 ppm while at the same time be prepared for a changing climate has made it important to include mitigation and adaptation in the same conversation and focus our resources on both.
There are a number of tools and technologies that can be used to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and improve community resilience. A technology that can provide a community both mitigation and adaptation benefits is combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration. More information on how CHP works can be found here.
CHP reduces overall emissions by generating power on site and then utilizing the waste heat from generation source for domestic hot water, steam processes, sterilization, etc. By producing power on site and using the waste heat, CHP is 25% to 30% more efficient than if power was provided by centralized generation and heating services were provided by on-site boilers. By using the waste heat from the on-site generator, the boiler is no longer needed, or its use is lessened, thereby reducing total emissions. Further, by not having to generate heat from a separate source, fuel costs are lower for the facility. Specific to centralized power generation, these sources produce power at a distance from the end-user requiring the power to travel long distances over power lines. As electricity moves across the transmission and distribution lines, some of the electricity is lost. This loss requires that more electricity must be generated at the source to ensure there is enough power for the end-user. In contrast, CHP generates power on site and does not experience the “line-loss,” thereby reducing total emissions to generate the same amount of site power.
Communities and businesses can experience extensive and expensive power outages due to natural disaster events, as well as more mundane issues such as squirrels or tree branches interfering with the power infrastructure. CHP is found to be more resilient as it does not have to rely on long distance transmission or local distribution lines to deliver power to the site. Further, natural gas powered CHP relies on a fuel distribution system that are more robust than the power infrastructure. With a more robust fuel distribution infrastructure, the likelihood of CHP not having the needed fuel source is fairly low during a natural disaster. This resilience was well illustrated during Hurricane Sandy where several CHP powered campuses stayed on-line while a good portion of New York City went dark.
CHP at HARC
HARC has been working on climate mitigation and adaptation applications and technologies for several years, including energy efficiency for buildings, renewable energy and CHP. Just recently, HARC was awarded a new Department of Energy grant allowing it operate as the DOEs Southcentral CHP Technical Assistance Partnership (SC CHP TAP) (SW CHP TAP)1. As the SW CHP TAP, HARC will be focusing on working with communities, the private sector and institutions to help with identifying and implementing CHP opportunities. In this role, HARC will be providing qualification screenings, feasibility studies, third party project development support, as well as outreach and education to potential CHP end-users, and to policy makers. The HARC team is ready to work with your community and business as you consider CHP. You can learn more at www.southwestchptap.org.
1Prior to this award, HARC had been the DOE’s Gulf Coast Clean Energy Application Center.