November 30, 2016

This October, the newest technology employed by Emory University to move toward a more efficient and sustainable electrical system arrived on campus: Cogeneration or Combined Heat and Power (CHP). A new steam-turbine generator was installed on Emory’s existing steam plant on campus and will be operational this month, producing one megawatt of clean power for the campus. The installation of this new turbine is an important step for Emory to develop clean, renewable energy on campus and fulfill the new Sustainability Vision goal to self-generate 10% of energy used on campus by 2025.

Joan Kowal, Senior Director of Energy Strategy and Utilities, says that Emory is “looking for opportunities for self-generated power,” and this installment is yet another way Emory can reduce the burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation.

Emory’s steam plant burns natural gas to create pressurized steam. Cogeneration/CHP recovers mechanical heat produced by turning generators, adds that heat to the steam system and is able to generate even more electricity by spinning the steam turbine under higher pressures. Cogeneration/CHP offers environmental benefits by making use of heat that would otherwise be wasted and getting more electricity generation from nearly the same amount of fossil fuels.

The traditional generation systems run under the relatively low steam pressure of 115 pounds per square inch, but with this technology the pressure in the new Emory system rises to 250 pounds per square inch. This increase in pressure gives the steam the capacity to spin the steam-generating turbine and produce an additional megawatt of electricity to be used by Emory’s campus. To put that into perspective, a megawatt is a million watts, and is roughly enough to power 1,000 average homes.

“Emory is thrilled to include cogeneration in its energy use portfolio and efforts to reduce the University’s carbon footprint,” says Jeffrey Pollei, the Director of Utilities. “Although it does not entirely cancel Emory’s utilization of fossil fuels, it’s one important step because now we’re making more efficient use of those resources."

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