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Cogeneration Providing Power Reliability During Hurricane Season

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More commercial and industrial facilities are turning to combined heat and power (CHP) for the energy and carbon emissions savings. Heat recovery steam generators recover heat that is wasted in traditional power generation. The steam produced is then used for heating, cooling, and industrial processes. 

By providing power and heat independence, cogeneration is playing an increasingly important role in power reliability by keeping critical infrastructure running during catastrophic weather events. As weather patterns conspire to deliver some fierce storms this hurricane season, here's how CHP could provide your facility with independence from the grid.

Power Reliability 

If you're running a hospital, data center, or other critical infrastructure, storms and blackouts cannot incapacitate your operations. Power reliability is essential to deliver critical services. If you want to power through the storm, CHP systems have proven to be more reliable than backup generators with maintenance issues, limited fuel supply, and slow startup times. Crucially, many CHP systems use natural gas as a low-cost, reliable fuel source, with only backup recourse to the electric grid.

When the electric grid has failed during the most catastrophic hurricanes, including Katrina and Harvey, hospitals in the epicenter have been able to maintain power reliability. By getting electrical power and thermal energy from the same natural gas source, these medical facilities were able to generate the electrical power, heating, and cooling to deliver critical care uninterrupted.

Energy Efficiency

A cogeneration system requires less fuel, and therefore is less dependent on the grid if a storm creates power transmission issues. CHP can double energy efficiency. A normal combustion system operates at about 40–50 percent efficiency. In contrast, a cogeneration system delivers 80 percent efficiency or higher. 

The higher efficiency results in significant reductions in fuel use for a unit of energy output. Trigeneration delivers even better energy performance. In this system, heat recovery steam generators produce combined heat, power, and cooling.

Energy Independence 

You can further increase your independence from the grid by using renewable energy sources. Waste and wastewater facilities, for example, use biogas from waste as a fuel to produce electricity and steam to process waste and heat buildings. Other commercial and industrial facilities use wood and other forms of biomass. 

The heat recovery steam generator has turned onsite power systems into mini power and heating systems. In the future, your CHP plant could become part of a micro grid that provides power reliability during blackouts.