Commercial Cogeneration / CHP Applications

CHP installations in commercial and institutional facilities make up 55% of CHP sites in the U.S., but account for only 13% of capacity. This is due to the relative size of commercial facilities which are typically much smaller than industrial facilities (the average capacity of an industrial CHP system is 52.5 MW compared to 4.8 MW for commercial/institutional CHP). Commercial and institutional applications (and light industrial) are seen as potential growth markets for CHP in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Energy and developers have both invested in technology improvements for these applications, focusing on increasing efficiency, incorporating new thermally activated technologies to provide both heating and cooling services, and integrating components and controls into cost effective packages. Approximately 60% of existing commercial CHP capacity is used in colleges, hospitals, government facilities such as prisons, campuses and military bases, and in downtown district energy systems. Close to 40% of existing CHP is used in a wide variety of other commercial applications including hotels, schools, multi-family buildings, office buildings greater than 100,000 square feet in size, laundries, country clubs, health clubs, nursing homes, and other commercial facilities that use CHP to provide heating, cooling and power.

  • Colleges/Universities – Due to their large thermal loads and desire for reliable power, CHP is a good fit for colleges and universities. A number of college and universities use CHP to provide steam and some power to key campus facilities. 72% of existing CHP for colleges and universities is natural gas-fired, and most institutions use a boiler/steam turbine or gas turbines. A number of college and university CHP systems have been designed to be able to run independently of the grid. This has enabled colleges and universities to continue many of their normal operations during storm events, and has helped increase interest in the use of CHP in this market sector.
  • District Energy (DE) – Due to the large need for thermal energy to deliver to adjacent buildings and facilities through a steam loop, district energy systems are a prime candidate for CHP. Most CHP systems used for district energy are boiler/steam turbine systems, or reciprocating engines. 74% of existing CHP capacity for DE systems are natural gas fired. District energy systems make sense in areas with dense construction, where a steam loop can provide service to multiple customers, and in areas with space constraints where a central service provider makes more sense than individual boiler installations. Due to the efficiency and environmental benefits of CHP, some cities have begun to encourage developers to consider the use of CHP as part of a district energy system in any new large-scale development plans.
  • Hospitals/Health Care – hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities are good candidates for CHP based on their thermal loads and the need for reliable power. Most hospital CHP systems consist of gas turbines, and reciprocating engines, and 84% of existing hospital/healthcare CHP capacity is natural gas. Many healthcare CHP systems are designed so that they can operate independently of the grid, in case of weather events or other incidents that may cause grid outages. Interest in CHP at healthcare facilities, especially in densely populated areas that are more prone to natural disasters, has increased in recent years due mainly to CHP’s reliability benefits.
  • Government Facilities – government complexes, prisons, waste water treatment, and criticial infrastructure facilities such as military bases are also good candidate sites for CHP systems. Most government CHP systems consist of combined cycle/gas turbine configurations or reciprocating engines. Natural gas is used to a lesser extent in these CHP applications as compared to other commercial markets, with 64% of capacity from natural gas-fired systems. CHP systems can help meet government objectives such as reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and can help operations remain up and running during emergency events, which is especially crucial at certain facilities such as military bases.
  • Multi-Family – facilities are defined as those facilities with central hot water and space heating systems, and that have no submetering. Sized appropriately, CHP systems at multi-family residences such as co-op buildings and other residences, can meet all of the building’s steam and power needs. 99% of existing CHP capacity located at multi-family residences is natural gas. Most multi-family CHP systems are gas turbines and reciprocating engines.
  • Office Buildings – CHP systems make sense at office buildings that are 100,000 sq ft and above in size, which have large enough thermal and power needs. Most CHP capacity at office buildings is natural gas-fired – 84%, and reciprocating engines are the primary technology being used. CHP systems are also commonly used in buildings that support business operations. For instance, a number of data centers now have CHP systems to ensure the continuity of business functions during grid outages.
  • Hotels/Lodging – Most CHP systems located at hotels are smaller systems typically less than 5 MW and use natural gas-fired reciprocating engines. 96% of hotel CHP capacity is from natural gas. Hotels commonly use CHP to provide hot water for guest use and laundry facilities. Larger hotels that have multiple restaurants, provide spa services and have heated swimming pools typically make the best candidates for CHP.
  • Schools – CHP systems are increasingly common in schools. These CHP systems are small, less than 1 MW systems. 84% of school CHP capacity is natural gas. Most schools use reciprocating engines. Since schools often serve as places of refuge for the community during storm events, CHP systems have become increasingly popular due to their ability to allow for the school to have lighting and other services during power outages.

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