Small Power Generation Plants For Businesses And Homes Now A Reality
Recent extreme weather events in the Northeast have caused many of us to ask, “How do I protect my home or business from power outages?”
What options do we have? Is there something more we can do to help protect our businesses and homes from lengthy loss of power?
The answer is yes. There is a technology that can provide power. We can install our own power generation plant right on site, called a micro-combined heat and power system (mCHP), or cogen system. These units are designed to work in conjunction with the grid as well as when the grid isn’t available. So you’ll have power when the grid can’t provide it.
This technology uses fossil fuel, typically natural gas, to drive an engine. With the engine rotating, it creates electricity. As part of that process, the engine creates heat as well. At a typical large power generation plant (the utility power plants we are familiar with), that heat is simply dumped to the outdoors, and so it’s wasted and very inefficient. Now we can put this waste heat to good use, heating buildings or pools, for example, or melting snow on sidewalks.
MCHP (cogen) systems are common in Japan and Europe, though not common yet in the US. TAG Mechanical has installed 60 or 70 such units throughout Central New York.
With the use of these units, we can use the grid as a battery, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our energy costs. You might think something like this would be expensive, but the technology has gotten to the point where it’s cost effective, without support from the federal government.
Part of the reason these systems are cost effective is because the utility company will sell you gas at a lower price because you’re generating electricity on site. Most small businesses or individuals can realize enough savings for the unit to pay for itself in 5 to 7 years.