Secretary Chu Highlights Large-Scale CHP | The Green Economy

Secretary Chu Highlights Large-Scale CHP

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is traveling across the country to highlight President Obama’s State of the Union address and affirm the Obama Administration’s commitment to American energy. On Thursday, February 2, Dr. Chu visited the Thermal Energy Corporation (TECO), the district energy company that provides heating and cooling to the Texas Medical Center in Houston. Combined heat and power (CHP) is not normally seen on such a large scale, so it is significant that the Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center campus in the world.

“Dr. Chu’s decision to tour TECO’s district energy system and combined heat and power plant validates how important these technologies are to our country’s energy future,” says Steve Swinson, CEO and President of TECO. “Dr. Chu fully understands the benefits of CHP – that it doubles energy efficiency and reduces emissions – and that a district energy system is what enables you to put the waste heat to good use. These proven technologies make economic sense right now, with no additional research necessary for implementation. Our hope is that TECO’s example encourages other communities and campuses to follow our path. District energy with combined heat and power really works.”

District energy systems like TECO produce steam, hot water and chilled water at a central plant for distribution through underground piping networks in cities, campuses and communities to multiple buildings for space heating, hot water and air conditioning.  CHP – also known as cogeneration – allows recapture of heat produced when generating electricity that is normally exhausted as waste, to be used in a district energy system for heating or cooling multiple buildings. Robert Thornton, President and CEO, International District Energy Association (IDEA), states “District energy systems are clean energy infrastructures that are ‘built to last.’”

TECO, a nonprofit district energy company founded in 1969, recently completed a $377 million energy infrastructure expansion integrating 48 MW of CHP.  TECO’s CHP plant now operates at efficiencies of 80 percent, more than twice as efficient as a typical utility generating station.  The CHP project received a $10 million U.S. DOE American Recovery & Reinvestment Act award, and, when operating at full capacity, will reduce carbon emissions by 75,000 tons a year and cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 305,000 tons annually.  This is equivalent to taking 52,000 cars off the road.

The Texas Medical Center in Houston houses 14 hospitals, 21 academic institutions, three medical schools and six nursing schools which have a combined $14 billion annual regional economic impact and serve 6 million patients each year.  The energy-saving CHP system allows TECO to keep pace with the medical center’s rapid growth and ensure that the energy system supporting more than $1 billion in annual medical research remains highly reliable.

Secretary Chu’s visit to TECO reinforces key themes from the recent State of the Union address, particularly an emphasis on strong infrastructure as a tool to create new jobs and promote local energy use. President Obama stated his vision to “double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising,” and emphasized the value of infrastructure investments in building a  ”new energy future.” Steve Swinson of TECO understands the value of a good infrastructure investment—in its first year of operation, the new CHP system saved enough energy to return $9 million in operating savings to customers. There are definite benefits to integrating CHP in other large scale projects.

District energy systems, as vital energy infrastructures in most major U.S. cities and institutions, will be showcased in next week’s 25th Annual IDEA Campus Energy Conference, Innovations in Clean Energy, taking place in Arlington, VA. The Opening Plenary Panel will feature discussion on the reliability, efficiency and cost benefits of state-of-the-art district energy and CHP systems. For more information on district energy, CHP and IDEA, please click here.

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