Going Green: SUNY ESF generating most of its own heat, power
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The 22 pieces of equipment in the basement of this building will generate enough heat and electricity to supply not only this building, but also four other buildings on the SUNY ESF campus.
Michael Kelleher, Director of Renewable Energy Systems at SUNY-ESF, said, “It’s a relatively new technology. People have been adopting it for a number of years on a much bigger scale than this. This is a challenge because although the equipment looks rather large and it’s producing a significant heat and power load, it’s small for this technology.”
The system is also unique in that part of it uses a renewable energy resource: Wood pellets.
“We have a gasifier that will take the wood pellets, heat them without much oxygen around and that produces a gas. Then we add air to that gas and burn that to produce high-pressure steam,” Kelleher said.
The high-pressure steam spins a turbine to produce electricity and what comes out is low-pressure steam.
Kelleher said, “That low-pressure steam we’ll use to heat our buildings. Unlike traditional electricity generation, we’re going to generate the electricity we need and make use of the waste heat. Most traditional power plants waste all that excess heat.”
Three other microturbines are fired by natural gas and again the waste heat, the low-pressure steam, is used to provide heat.
“So altogether, these systems working together produce about 20 percent of our electrical needs and about two-thirds of our heating needs from these systems working together,” Kelleher said.
At the current price of heat and power, the college will save about $400,000 a year, which means the system, will be paid for in five years.
Kelleher said, “This is (also) a research project where we can show people this technology, help them learn about it and it will help people become comfortable to adopt the technology.”