Improving Power Reliability and Resiliency in Multifamily Facilities with CHP



By Deborah Nabaloga, Research Assistant, Clean Energy Policy and Rheanna Patel, EfTA Intern

Combined Heat and Power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is the concurrent production of electricity and thermal energy from a single energy source. It is a type of distributed generation located near the point of consumption which allows for heat waste to be captured and used for heating and cooling purposes. Compared to conventional methods, CHP systems can reach efficiency gains of 75% allowing for lower operating costs and reduced emissions.

CHP systems operate by producing electricity and heat from a single source, the prime mover, near the point of consumption. This prime mover will then drive a generator capturing waste heat, in which thermal energy can be recovered from. Any heat byproduct from the prime mover is recovered by a heat exchanger to be used for numerous applications including sterilization or a steam driven chiller. While natural gas is the primary and most frequently used fuel, biogas, biomass, and solar can also be utilized by CHP systems. Combining renewable energy with CHP guarantees a site reliable and low carbon energy.

While CHP systems have traditionally been used in large applications in industrial  facilities, over the past few years, technology changes have enabled an expansion into the commercial and multifamily markets with smaller systems. Multifamily establishments present an untapped market opportunity for CHP. Two of every ten Americans live in a unit in a multifamily building, many of these buildings contain centralized energy systems that can incorporate CHP not only to provide a consistent supply of energy but also to meet resilience goals.[1] This includes multifamily facilities such as the Schmidt Artist Lofts located in St. Paul, Minnesota. The 2014 project converted the historic Schmidt Brewery into a 247-apartment residential building. A 65kW microturbine fueled by natural gas was installed to provide heat and electricity to the building. Through the inverter-based generation, power quality has improved significantly, and tenants stay warm during the North Star State’s harsh winters.

CHP systems offer numerous benefits to multifamily facilities including improving energy efficiency, lowering utility costs and decreasing carbon emissions. The ability to concurrently produce electricity and thermal energy from a single on/near site fuel source is a huge benefit given the increased weather events that are causing grid outages across the nation. As a reliable source of energy before, during, and after these times of need, CHP decreases the threat of costly financial, health, and safety risks associated with a power outage, often meeting payback thresholds during the first outage event. The ability of CHP to withstand long, multiday outages adds to the quality of life for tenants.

The Department of Energy’s Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnerships (CHP TAPs) provides variety of resources to help facilitate CHP deployment across throughout the country. Comprised of leading experts in CHP (in addition to microgrids, heat to power, and district energy),  the TAP programs provide a range of technical assistance services to facility owners and managers. If you are just getting started, the Opportunities for CHP in the Multifamily Sector report is a great resource to learn more about CHP system opportunities in this market. Contact us to learn more about no-cost technical assistance and expertise available to help determine if CHP is a good fit for your site


[1] www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-05/documents/chp_multifamily/pdf