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Combined Heat and Power Systems (CHP)

Combined Heat and Power Systems (CHP)

Oakland University Facilities Management and the School of Engineering are actively pursuing Combined Heat and Power (CHP) installations, research, and educational opportunities.


 In partnership with the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, Oakland University hosted the 2015 Michigan CHP Conference. All information about the conference, including presentation videos, can be found at oakland.edu/energy/clean--research/chpconference/.


Overview

CHP systems use onsite electrical power production where the waste heat can be recovered, or recycled, back into the facility to serve heating, hot water, or thermally driven air conditioning loads.  Therefore, CHP is much more efficient than using conventional grid power where centralized power plants reject this waste heat back to mother nature and then transmit the electric power over long distances with resulting losses.  The differential in fuel price to the local electrical price determines the economics of CHP installations.  Current clean, abundant, and low cost natural gas make CHP the clean energy system of choice for reducing carbon footprints.  Between the gains in efficiency, and switching from coal fired grid power, a facility could substantially reduce its carbon footprint by merely implementing this proven, reliable, onsite power option. 
CHP

To learn more about CHP, visit the following webpages:

CHP Activities at Oakland University

• OU has contracted with an energy service company to install a 4.6MW CHP unit in the central heating plant. The system will provide full-campus backup power, replace two 60 year old boilers, lower the university's carbon footprint by 40 to 50 percent, and will be self-funding. Four large absorption chillers use this hot water to create cooling for about 1/3 of the campus, making CHP an ideal technology for Oakland.

• OU has installed two 200 kilowatt micro-turbine CHP units in the new Engineering Center. This innovative new green building opened for classes in Fall 2014. The building also features chilled beam cooling with magnetic bearing chillers.

• OU's Clean Energy Research Center is involved in multiple micro-CHP R&D efforts both with industry (a 1.5kW packaged CHP system) and prototyping of a proprietary dual fuel micro-CHP unit for restaurant applications to dispose of site generated waste vegetable oil. Lastly, the CERC is launching a multi-year student project which converts a used 50kW sterling engine generator to a diesel - natural gas dual fuel CHP unit.

• Multiple CHP and solar installations are being installed or proposed. A future vision for a distributed generation micro-grid with integrated CHP can be seen here.


 Natural Gas

All forms of energy production have environmental impacts. Even renewable technologies such as solar, wind, and hydro consume energy and resources during their manufacture. Their deployment takes up space, land, and interacts with the natural and human environment where there are installed. However, the environmental impacts of fossil fuel exploration, extraction, and combustion are significant enough to look for alternatives. Of these three, methane (CH4), or natural gas, has the lowest amount of carbon dioxide produced during combustion. This is due the fact that it has the highest Hydrogen to Carbon ratio (H/C ratio) of all hydrocarbon fuels. This is a significant benefit to energy production from conventional sources. The low carbon output combined with the extremely high efficiency of onsite CHP gives natural gas CHP the ability to significantly lower the carbon footprint of electrical production. Natural gas is clean burning, low sulfur, and convenient to use.

However, even our clean burning natural gas has serious issues. During extraction and transportation to the customer, too much CH4 gas escapes. Methane is 20 times more potent as a climate change gas than CO2, therefore this is a significant problem that needs to be reduced and managed. Hydraulic fracturing techniques for gas extraction are also causing water and environmental contamination on a massive scale. The lack of regulation, lack of water recycling, and lack of care by many drillers in a gold rush style exploration boom is supplying cheap and abundant gas to the United States. These issues must be resolved and there will be costs associated with proper water, drilling, and clean up of natural gas production. While gas production and transportation is the largest source of human methane emissions, other significant emitters of methane are cattle (or enteric fermentation the digestive process of rumens), landfills, and coal mining. Films like Gasland illustrate the environmental impacts of our margionally regulated natural gas production industry. Gasland 2 is now out on HBO.