A well installed and correctly operated combined heat and power (CHP) system can give thousands of pounds in energy savings and significantly reduce carbon emissions. These benefits are leading to significant growth in small-scale CHP across the UK.
But 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, so it is important they understand the key steps necessary for a successful installation. By including the supplier in the early stages of the project’s design all the players are involved, meaning investments are more secure and reputations protected.
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 as possible – 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 stage, there is a risk the plant will be oversized, run inefficiently and potentially lose money instead of saving it.
When it comes time to operate a CHP system, doing so 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. This is why it is important that contractors and their customers secure operation and maintenance contracts to help protect the long-term investment.
When designing and running a CHP system, you should:
- ensure a large difference between flow and return temperatures;
- operate the system in preference to boilers for a higher overall efficiency; and
- consider a thermal store to help manage demand and take advantage of price signals.
Once your system is installed, get a performance test sheet to check it meets the original performance specification. Installing metering can also help monitor performance and confirm your investment is delivering.
Make sure relevant staff are trained properly and are aware of the importance of operating the system correctly. For contractors and consultants this means making sure there is a careful hand-over process, so that the energy centre operator will understand their investment.
The Association for Decentralised Energy’s new advice note is designed to help users make sure they avoid some of these pitfalls when installing and operating a CHP system, and maximise the benefits. By getting advice from experts and making sure you are involving the operator and the supplier at the early stages, everyone involved can ensure their investments deliver the expected carbon and cost savings.
Jonathan Graham is head of policy at The Association for Decentralised Energy