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Four steps to ensuring your CHP plant project delivers success

Be a plant room Hero! Correctly specifying a Combined Heat and Power plant means energy efficiency and cost reduction benefits, use this guide to help ensure a successful CHP project.

The essential guide to planning and specifying a successful CHP project

Centrica Business Solutions' Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technical expert Rohan Shiram discusses the essential specification guidelines consultants and contractors should have in mind to ensure your co-generation project delivers on its CAPEX and OPEX potential.

Careful planning is essential to the successful deployment of CHP projects, and to delivering sustained benefits for the lifetime of your asset. In this blog, we examine the important issues you must consider and some of the key questions you should ask during the specification stages, including:

1. Is it feasible?

A CHP plant will deliver an impressive return on investment (typically 3-5 years for an asset with a 10-15-year lifespan) for the right sites with sufficient heat and power demand.  The starting point in calculating technical and economic feasibility of your project is  to understand your site and energy requirements.

You must first gather accurate electricity and heating consumption data to calculate your load profile and the correct heat-to-power ratios.  Plot this data against time to provide a pattern showing how much energy the site uses and at what times. This will indicate whether CHP is feasible for your site and inform correct sizing, which is the most crucial factor in ensuring efficiency.

Calculating your energy profile for new build sites is more complex, but you Building Information Modelling (BIM) data can help inform the process. Using energy profiles, models and BIM data to establish a reliable heat demand for a building will ensure that Combined Heat and Power systems can be specified for optimal performance.

Other important factors that could affect your energy profile, which you should factor in include: 

  • Are there any future expansion plans that may increase or decrease energy demand and affect the site base load? 
  • Do you have other plans in place for energy efficiency plans that may affect base load calculations? 
  • Are there adjacent sites that could use excess electrical and heat energy if demand is low on the main site?

2. Consider the design practicalities

Assessing possible physical and environmental constraints is critical to successful CHP deployment. Here's a checklist of key considerations.

Where will the CHP system be located? Does your plant or boiler room have enough room for both the unit and any ancillary equipment and pipes? You will need space for maintenance access.

If space is insufficient, where else might you locate the unit? Externally in a containerised acoustic enclosure, or on the roof? What additional infrastructure may be required and how much would this cost? And, do you have sufficient ventilation within the plant room?

How will your CHP unit connect with the primary fuel supply and other utilities, or with remote monitoring? Is the fuel supply sufficient? How will you configure the system with your building energy management system and power, cooling and heating systems, particularly secondary heat sources.

In addition, some wider questions are worth considering:

  • What are the environmental impacts of the chosen installation location?
  • Do you need take any remedial action to limit the impact of noise or vibration?
  • How critical is security of supply? Does your system need to operate in 'island mode' to bolster your energy resilience? 

3. Understand the compliance and approval issues

Don't get caught out when planning a CHP plant project by regulations or environmental compliance considerations. Here's some important issues you should check:

Is planning permission necessary? Are your plans compliant with relevant rules and frameworks, ie. BREEAM, Building Regulations Level 2, etc.?

Do you understand the environmental compliance requirements, especially operating within NOx guidelines? Modern CHP energy systems should reduce your overall NOx emissions, which you need to calculate to a BREEAM-approved format.  

And, how will you secure approval under the new G99 grid connection standard and how long will this take? G99 is required for all CHP projects and will replace the existing G59 standard from April 2019.

4. Calculate the finances

A highly efficient Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system will typically achieve energy cost savings of around 30%, as well as not negatively effecting your CO2 emissions profile. During the planning process, it is therefore important to consider many factors to inform investment decisions.

Key to any project is factoring in the likely 'spark spread' price advantage of a gas fired CHP unit; which, due to shifting your energy demand from more expensive electricity to cheaper gas, will provide substantial immediate savings.

For procurement and implementation itself, your organise can investigate external energy solution asset financing, such as Centrica Business Solutions' Discount Energy Purchase (DEP) asset financing option. Our DEP option effectively involves 'leasing' technology by purchasing the generated power at a lower cost than previous grid supplies. The heat is supplied free and all maintenance and servicing costs are covered.

You should also review available government benefits and incentive schemes. For example, partial exemption from Climate Change Levy via the Combined Heat and Power Quality Assurance (CHPQA) scheme. And make sure you include lifetime servicing and maintenance costs; although these are included automatically in many asset financing solutions, such as Centrica's DEP option above.

An experienced energy partner, such as Centrica Business Solutions, can assist with all these financing and procurement questions.

How we can help

Extreme energy market volatility is the new norm, while the need to  improve energy sustainability is gaining in urgency. Now is the time to optimise your energy with a CHP energy system.

The CHP specification process is complex, but expert support is available to guide you every step of the way. Centrica Business Solutions is a market leader in CHP, with deep technical knowledge of all stages of designing, delivering and operating innovative CHP projects across the globe. We have more than 30 years experience as both a manufacturer and supplier of world class cogeneration systems.