Urban CHP

The need for improved urban infrastructure is increasingly apparent as cities expand and population densities increase. One way to improve the efficiency of city infrastructure while also providing cleaner energy options is through combined heat and power (CHP) systems. CHP systems can be used to generate both electricity and heat from a single fuel source, such as natural gas.

1) What is a CHP system?

A CHP  system is a type of cogeneration system that produces both electricity and heat from a single fuel source. CHP systems are also sometimes referred to as cogeneration, trigeneration, or microgeneration systems.  CHP transforms heat into motion with  a combustion engine or turbine, then converts the motion into electricity with a generator.  The waste heat from the engine or turbine is used to produce steam or hot water.  The heat may be used to  meet space heating, potable water heating, or process heat needs. 

2) How can CHP systems benefit cities?

There are many ways in which CHP systems can benefit cities. One  benefit is that CHP systems can improve the efficiency of city infrastructure. Another benefit is that CHP systems can provide cleaner energy options for cities.

3) What are some challenges associated with implementing CHP systems?

There are some challenges associated with implementing CHP systems. One challenge is the upfront cost of installing a CHP system. Another  challenge is that CHP systems require a reliable source of fuel.

4) Are there any examples of successful CHP projects?

There are several examples of successful CHP projects. One example is the Chicago Center for Green Technology, which is a city-run facility that uses CHP technology to generate electricity and heat. Another example is the University of Connecticut, which has a CHP system that provides electricity and heat for the campus.  The percentage of campuses in the United States that use CHP is  increasing.  In 2017, there were 83 CHP projects on university and college campuses, with a total capacity of 922 megawatts (MW). This is up from 79 projects and 884 MW in 2016.  The top five campuses for CHP capacity in 2017 were Arizona State University (143 MW), the University of Texas at Austin (120 MW), the University of Connecticut (93 MW), Texas A&M University (71 MW), and the University of California, Irvine (68 MW).  Since heat can also be harnessed to provide air conditioning, CHP  can be used with ammonia refrigeration  systems to provide a more efficient and environmentally-friendly option for cooling buildings.  When used in this way, the system is sometimes referred to as an absorption chiller-heater.  Some examples of successful absorption chiller-heater projects include the University of Texas at Austin, which has a system that provides cooling for 17 buildings on campus.

Hank Johnson, who owns a party bus service in Arlington, TX says that after the 2021 power crisis he supports more CHP plants in the DFW metro area, “We definitely need to fix the problems that led to the power crisis, but additional capacity locally could help locals if something similar ever happens again.”

In conclusion, CHP systems offer many benefits for cities, including improved efficiency and cleaner energy options. There are some challenges associated with implementing CHP systems, but there are also many successful examples of CHP projects. If your city is considering implementing a CHP system, be sure to research the potential benefits and challenges in order to make the best decision for your community.