There are some big changes going on that are making small, 10-MW-and-under, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants attractive for facilities such as commercial office buildings, universities, schools, small factories, and hospitals. This is a shift from decades past, and shows maturation in the technology and the market. One company, Professional Power Products Inc. (3Pi), is poised to meet the growing demand now that they have moved from the outside in, from a manufacturer of weather-protected sound-attenuated enclosures for power products, to a provider of packaged CHP. Tom Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer since March of 2015, and Dan White who has been with the company since 2003 and is now Director of CHP Operations, discuss the path forward for both CHP and 3Pi, which was recently acquired by Power Solutions International (PSI), a company with over 30 years of experience in engine and power solutions for the industrial and on-road markets. Smith says, “Now that 3Pi is part of Power Solutions International, we have the strength, talent, and financial backing to take an already-strong business to the next level.” That next level is riding the wave of change that includes more local, state, and federal support of cogeneration. The Obama Administration issued an executive order to accelerate the advancement of CHP, increasing it by 40 GW over the next five years. Smith says, “It isn’t legislation, but it is a target—that’s 40,000 megawatts of new capacity—a very, very big growth piece and a commitment to the industry at the federal level.” Tens of millions of dollars of incentives are available from agencies like New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The Department of Energy (DOE) is implementing a Packaged CHP Accelerator Program, which is a kind of review and cataloging of pre-packaged equipment under 10 MW, which is the sweet spot of 3Pi. Smith says, “There is no entity that standardizes CHP. They have tended to be one-off projects. But the DOE accelerator program allows end users to look at systems provided by major companies like ourselves. These are substantial investments that become part of the facility for 25 to 30 years.” Most of these CHP systems are fueled by natural gas, and thus the shale revolution is another driver. By turning the natural gas into both electric power and usable thermal energy, White says, “you get 80% efficiency; a genset with no heat recovery provides fuel use efficiency in the mid-30% range.” Because of these efficiencies, when it comes to commercial buildings, CHP can help in attaining Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design (LEED) points. “We are targeting the part of the market where there is the biggest need, where there are high electricity prices and demand for new capacity,” says Smith. The utility grid is challenged in our times, and these distributed resources help meet the growing demand for clean reliable energy, which reduces the need for new power plants from being built, and compensates for those being decommissioned. Hurricane Sandy proved the value of distributed localized power during emergencies, as CHP plants operated during utility outages. White is part of a team of five who are focusing on the CHP market in the Philadelphia region. He says they cover everything, from “visiting sites for evaluation to engineering the products, followed by project management and field services.” A sound-attenuated, weather-protected enclosure allows for a turnkey approach where the system has already undergone sophisticated testing at the 3Pi facility, and is assembled and can be shipped efficiently. Where the logistics at a site do not permit, a plant can be “stick built”—in some cases, 3Pi is even “building units with bathrooms and conference rooms,” says Smith. “We are very experienced. We know all aspects of what it takes to make a project successful and have a ‘lessons learned manual’ that we share with our customers to make sure things are done right and mistakes that have occurred in the past are not repeated.” 3Pi’s Wisconsin facility is over 200,000 square feet with crane capacity in excess of 200 tons. “We are located near many of the major engine manufacturers. We are 200 employees strong, are ISO 9001 certified, and have the financial resources to carry out these projects as part of a public company.” The packaged CHP plants are comprised of a natural gas-fueled reciprocating engine, an alternator, ventilation equipment, the control system, and electric gear to tie into the building or grid, as well as the system to handle the rejected heat: a heat exchanger, and then either a hot water boiler to provide hot water and/or steam, or a chiller for chilled water cooling. “We are engine agnostic,” says Smith. “We have put systems together for all the major engine companies: GE Jenbacher and Waukesha, MWM from Caterpillar, Cummins, MTU, PSI, and others. The engine/alternator is the heart of the system. It is two-thirds the weight of the most packages.” CHP adoption, Smith says, “is positioned for an expansion like it’s never been!”
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