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CHP can save you money. Here’s how to make sure of it
A well installed and correctly operated CHP can give thousands of pounds in energy savings and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
The Association for Decentralised Energy’s case studies show that CHP can reduce energy bills by up to 30%, and see quick investment paybacks. As energy bills continue to rise, CHP investments help users hedge against rising prices and control their energy costs.
These benefits are leading to significant growth in small-scale CHP, located in office buildings, hospitals, leisure centres and care homes, all across the UK. Industry surveys estimate at least 100 MW of new small-scale (<2 MW in size) CHP capacity was installed in 2014, and we expect continued strong growth in 2015.
Each of these hundreds of energy users saw an opportunity to make significant cost savings while also using CHP’s higher efficiency to reduce their carbon emissions.
However, CHP only provides these benefits if it is sized and installed correctly and ultimately operated properly. A CHP solution needs to be based on a number of considerations including technical, financial and operational factors, not just to meet planning or building regulation requirements.
Contractors, consultants and customers may have limited experience with CHP, and so it is important they understand the key steps necessary for successful CHP installations. By including the supplier in the early stages of the project’s design all the players involved can ensure the value of their investment is more secure and that their reputations are protected.
Data is king
When first considering whether CHP is the right investment for you or your customer, it is important to collect as much information about the site's requirements including energy demand and heat to power ratio, opportunities to export, and alternative energy efficiency options to create a detailed model.
If you do not take care at this initial stage, there is a significant risk you will oversize your CHP plant, it will run inefficiently and potentially lose you money, instead of saving it.
It is important to begin consulting a CHP supplier even at this very first step, as they can provide you with support to make sure you invest in the right equipment.
Don’t just drive away
For most energy users, expecting to operate a CHP without support is akin to jumping into a race car without any instruction. You might move forward, but probably not at the speed you hoped. And you may even cause some very expensive damage.
That is why it is important contractors and their customers secure operation and maintenance contracts, to help protect the long-term investment and make sure the CHP is run optimally.
In order to make sure you make the right investment decision, consider life cycle cost instead of just capital cost. A cheap CHP might cost you a lot more in the long run.
Three key operational principles
Some key operation requirements to keep in mind when designing and operating CHP is to:
- Ensure a large difference between flow and return temperatures.
- Operate your CHP in preference to boilers for a higher overall efficiency.
- Consider a thermal store to help manage demand and take advantage of price signals.
Once your CHP is installed, get a performance test sheet to check your CHP meets the original performance specification. Also make sure your CHP continues to meet the standards of the CHP Quality Assurance (CHPQA) scheme, as most CHP financial incentives require continued CHPQA accreditation.
Installing metering can also help monitor performance and confirm your investment is delivering, and you can change its operation if not.
People are important too
Make sure relevant staff are trained properly and made aware of the importance of operating your new CHP correctly. For contractors and consultants, this means making sure there’s a careful handover process, so that the energy centre operator will understand their investment. Small changes to a CHP's operation can have a big impact on its efficiency. For example, making sure staff do not over increase boiler temperature in response to cold weather as this will impact flow and return temperatures and overall efficiency.
By getting advice from experts and making sure you are involving the operator and the CHP supplier at the early stages, consultants, contractors and customers can ensure their CHP investments deliver the expected carbon and cost savings. The Association for Decentralised Energy’s new advice note for contractors, consultants and customers is designed to help users make sure they avoid some of these key pitfalls when installing and operating CHP, and maximise the benefits. You can download the full advice document here.