For companies with high fuel costs, or for those whose operations demand reliable power, onsite energy can provide numerous benefits, including decreased fuel costs, cleaner energy, reliability, lower carbon footprints and public relations advantages.
The industries that take advantage of onsite energy include healthcare, technology, data centers, real estate, manufacturing, food and beverage and banking—to name a few. Depending on your industry and location, your company may be better suited to specific types of onsite energy.
Onsite energy options include renewable energy, combined heat and power and advanced energy storage.
In addition to reaping lower costs and lowering their carbon footprints, companies can realize public relations benefits by choosing onsite energy, especially if the energy is renewable. What’s more, green onsite energy can make environmentally minded employees happy.
To go green, you might consider renewable energy, including solar or wind. Much depends on your location and the availability of sun or wind. In addition, consider local incentives.
For example, Jetro Restaurant Depot recently completed the installation of 728 kW of solar at the company’s College Point facility in Queens, N.Y., with the aid of incentives from NYSERDA, according to a press release.
With renewable energy systems like solar and wind, you generally need a backup system or storage to fill the gaps when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. However, with systems such as the Bloom Box from Bloom Energy, you can get firm energy—without any backup from the utility or other systems.
The Bloom Box uses fuel cell technology that can take advantage of renewable resources or fossil fuels and provide power 24/7.
“By generating power on-site, where it is consumed, Bloom Energy offers increased electrical reliability and improved energy security, providing a clear path to energy independence,” the company says.
The box contains fuel cells that convert fuels into electricity through an electro-chemical process that doesn’t involve combustion, which produces low-emission onsite energy, according to Bloom Energy.
They’re now being used in Ebay’s data center in South Jordan, Utah, Morgan Stanley’s headquarters in New York City, at Wall-Mart and Home Depot, to name a few companies.
Another form of onsite energy is combined heat and power, or CHP. “This form of onsite generation captures heat that would otherwise be wasted,” says Robert Holdsworth, VOP of Engineering for Evolution Energy Partners. “It is then converted to thermal energy—steam or hot water—that can be used for space heating, cooling or industrial processes.”
Says the US DOE, “CHP technology can be deployed quickly, cost-effectively, and with few geographic limitations. CHP can use a variety of fuels, both fossil- and renewable-based. It has been employed for many years, mostly in industrial, large commercial, and institutional applications.”
CHP installations generally operate at 65% to 75% efficiency, compared to the national average of about 50% for the two services separately–electricity from the grid plus hot water, the DOE says.
Another option, which can provide energy 24/7, is renewable energy plus advanced energy storage.
Energy storage systems store energy—whether it’s energy from the grid, renewable energy or other resources—to be used at a later time.
For example, in a case study about a mid-sized commercial building in Des Moines, Iowa that has a wind turbine, NREL recharged a ground storage system at night and used stored energy to reduce electricity demand in the early morning hours, shifting about 10 percent of the heating load to the night hours.
“Storage technologies also improve the quality of power through frequency regulation, allow companies to produce power when it is cheapest and most efficient, and provide an uninterruptible source of power for critical infrastructure and services,” says the Energy Storage Association.
What are high-profile examples of onsite energy’s benefits? One oft-cited example is Princeton University’s ability to switch off the grid and power part of its campus with about 11 MW of local generation when Superstorm Sandy blacked out parts of New York City. In addition, a cogeneration plant at New York University provided heat and power to part of the campus during Sandy.
If you think you’re spending too much on energy—or if your company needs constant, reliable power, it’s a good idea to investigate your onsite energy options by contacting Chuck Hurchalla at Evolution Energy Partners (Churchalla@evolutionep.com or 610 329 8288). You’ll discover numerous benefits not related to energy. You can green your reputation and make your employees and customers proud.