The co-op, located in the Kensington neighborhood, is installing a combined heat and power (CHP) system that will simultaneously produce electricity and hot water, saving energy and money while providing power back-up in an emergency. ‘It’ll offer payback along with resilience,’ says the EN-POWER GROUP’s director of engineering, professional engineer Amalia Cuadra, who oversaw this project.

The building-owned machine will generate enough electricity to keep common areas, including hallways and elevators, running – even during a power outage. Meanwhile, excess heat created while producing the power will be siphoned off to heat domestic water for the entire building. The tandem processes will save about $63,000 in annual thermal and electricity fees, and provide the residence with its own back-up power source during any future emergency.

… At the time, the co-op board was trouble-shooting an aging and inefficient building power plant.

‘Oil threatened to eat us alive,’ recalls Forte. ‘It was completely unsustainable, accounting for almost one-third of our $3 million operating budget.’ Cuadra was brought in to help the replacement of a boiler and chiller with more efficient gas-fired units, immediately cutting fuel costs in half and substantially increasing efficiency. And then came the aha moment: the board discovered cogeneration.

… Luckily, Caton Towers is the perfect size – the economics of cogeneration work best in buildings with 150-plus units – and the building had room for a turbine, although a $35,000 alteration was necessary. ‘We needed it situated unobtrusively, which required removing an unused chiller,’ Cuadra explains.

She also had to locate a heat-venting radiator outside, far from apartment windows but close enough to keep energy transport costs down. In the end, distance won over cost. ‘Running the pipes farther out added to the expense,’ says Cuadra.

… The logistics stretched planning out for more than four years before everything came together this summer. Installation begins this month, with completion scheduled before the worst of winter weather descends. Perfect timing for peace of mind – and savings. ‘This,’ Forte says, ‘will be a great long-term idea.’

The board also hopes cogeneration will help the building meet carbon-emission limits that begin in 2024, especially if the board ventures even into deeper sustainability waters. ‘Initially, we didn’t think about generating power to apartments,’ says Monarch. ‘It seemed too ambitious. But we may pursue renewable energy via CHP or solar for residences in the future.’ ”


To read the full September 11, 2019 article in Habitat >>>> click here