Commercial combined heat and power systems from Caterpillar.

Reduced Operating Costs via CHP, Distributed Generation and Standby Power

Many commercial facilities such as resorts, shopping malls, high-rise office buildings, universities, data centers and hospitals can reduce operating costs by implementing a Caterpillar combined heat and power (CHP) system (also know as cogeneration) using clean pipeline natural gas as a fuel source. Cat® gas generator sets can simultaneously provide electricity for electrical loads and heat energy for a facility's thermal requirements. Benefits from CHP projects include:

  • Energy efficiency up to 90 percent
  • Reduced energy costs versus separate heat and electrical generation systems
  • Reduced emissions versus separate heat and electrical generation systems
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification via Energy Efficiency Credits

Where the capture and use of waste heat is not viable, many commercial facilities may still benefit financially via distributed generation (DG), where electricity is simply produced locally or via a natural gas fueled emergency standby power plant. This is especially true when any of the following apply:

  • The local electric grid is unreliable
  • Natural gas is an inexpensive alternative to grid electricity
  • Reduced emissions versus separate heat and electrical generation systems
  • Generators can be applied during peak times of day to avoid high electrical utility demand charges (also know as peak shaving)

How CHP Works

Any Cat natural gas fueled engine can be configured for applications involving heat recovery. The engine drives a Cat generator set to produce electricity, while jacket water and/or exhaust cooling circuits are fed through heat exchangers to transfer the waste heat from the engine to a customer's hot water or steam circuit. That hot water or steam can then be effectively used for the facility's process or HVAC requirements, including facility cooling when implementing an absorption or adsorption chiller (known also as trigeneration).

Caterpillar provides customized CHP package proposals, including the required mechanical equipment and controls to capture and transfer the engine thermal energy to a customer's facility. Caterpillar also offers:

  • Natural gas fuel pressure regulation and safeties
  • Exhaust emissions after treatment for highly regulated emission environments
  • Utility grade paralleling switchgear to run multiple generator sets together or to export energy to the local electric grid

The total energy cost savings of such systems can more than offset the total owning and operating costs, delivering a payback in as little as two to three years, depending on local energy pricing and policies.

How Distributed Generation and Emergency Standby Power Work

When power is produced locally without heat recovery from the engine, Caterpillar provides radiators to provide proper cooling to the engine jacket water, engine oil and aftercooler water circuits. Generators operate in parallel with one another or with the local utility power source.

Although diesel fueled emergency power systems will always be the solution of choice for life safety emergency standby systems, there has been an increasing move toward natural gas fueled standby power systems in recent years. This change is driven by reduced fuel maintenance, lower emissions and higher availability. Typically installed with an automatic transfer switch (ATS) or paralleling switchgear control for multiple generator sets, these systems sense when a utility outage occurs and automatically start the backup power system and transfer power to the emergency source. When normal grid power returns, the control system automatically switches back and shuts down the emergency generator.

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