Implementing a combined heat and power system at an airport can benefit the bottom line, increase efficiency and reliability of daily operations and reduce greenhouse gases in our environment.
Reducing greenhouse gases while simultaneously increasing efficiency and reliability sounds too good to be true, but it doesn’t have to be.
Reducing greenhouse gases has always been good for the environment. The likelihood of a carbon cap-and-trade system in the near future now makes reducing the carbon footprint of an airport or other facility a good business decision, too. Increasing reliability by minimizing passenger delays at your airport is also an important goal. A combined heat and power (CHP) system can help you reach these seemingly divergent goals.
Putting Waste Heat into Action
A CHP system generates enough off-grid electricity to serve the electrical load of a facility with combustion turbines, microturbines or reciprocating engines. CHP recovers the electrical generation waste heat, typically lost up the stack in traditional energy systems, and repurposes it as space heating, domestic hot water heating, space cooling and dehumidification. A typical energy system consists of grid-supplied electricity and standalone heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment that require a separate fuel source such as electricity for electric centrifugal chillers or natural gas for boilers. By reusing waste heat, a CHP system reduces or even eliminates the additional fuel requirement for HVAC equipment, increasing energy efficiency and reducing operating costs.
The reduction of greenhouse gases through a CHP system can be dramatic. A recent CHP project for the Texas Medical Center doubled the efficiency of the plant while simultaneously reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300,000 tons per year. The significant efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas emission reductions occur because traditional, central generation plants in the United States convert only 35 percent of the primary fuel into electricity.
The remaining 65 percent is lost up the stack — contributing to carbon dioxide emissions and inefficient fuel conversion — while an additional 2 percent to 6 percent is lost in transmission from the plant to the end user. Fuel efficiency rates rise from roughly 30 percent in traditional generation to 75 percent with a CHP system. The increased fuel efficiency results in lower emissions and a reduction of the total fuel consumed for cooling, heating and power.
Lower emissions can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line. Even though cap-and-trade of carbon isn’t law in the United States today, it is a provision in the American Clean Energy and Security Act that passed the House of Representatives in June 2009. Even if this bill doesn’t become law, a cost will likely be associated with carbon emissions in the near future. Estimates vary, but a range of $10 to $40 per ton isn’t out of the question.
Because a CHP plant generates power on-site, an airport benefits from the security of off-grid generation, a freedom from system interruptions and outages. A CHP system is custom-designed to meet all reliability needs, from peak demand to
The off-grid electrical generation that a CHP system provides eliminates the feedback from other electrical system users connected to the grid, increasing the power quality for the airport. Higher power quality keeps sensitive electronic equipment up and operating.
Implementing CHP at an airport can benefit the bottom line, daily operations and our environment. The efficiency of CHP can save millions in utility bills. It positively impacts passengers by reducing airport downtime through the assurance of a reliable power supply. The reduction in carbon dioxide emissions can be promoted as a cutting-edge technology that is greening the air transportation system. CHP makes the seemingly impossible, possible.