Energize and Decarbonize Your Building
At Vergent, we provide solutions for buildings. Our energy solutions cut operating costs, increase reliability and reduce emissions.
During conventional separate power and heat generation, nearly two-thirds of energy is wasted, discharged to the atmosphere as heat during generation, transmission, and distribution.
With modern CHP systems, capturing and using heat that would otherwise be wasted and helps generation systems achieve efficiencies of over 90 percent, compared to 45 percent for typical technologies (e.g., conventional electricity generation and an on-site boiler).
Because of this increased efficiency, CHP systems can emit less carbon emissions than separate heat and grid power.
CHP can help you meet your decarbonization goals
Frequency Asked Questions
By contrast, a hot water CHP system that is 76% efficient and runs on natural gas emits approximately 571 lbs/MWh of CO2, a reduction of 12%. After factoring in NOx reduction, the GHG equivalency reduction is even greater. So even in states that have fairly clean power grids, like Massachusetts, CHP will produce less GHG emissions.
Looking at another extreme example, the Canadian province of Ontario has one the lowest emitting electricity systems in the world. In 2020, Ontario’s grid was 94% GHG emission free. Yet even with such a clean grid, Ontario heavily relies on natural gas generation for 28% of total generating capacity to avoid blackouts and fill the void left from intermittent renewable sources. Reducing the reliance on natural gas further would have catastrophic consequences on grid stability and the cost of power for Ontario ratepayers.
A recent ICF assessment has shown that a natural gas CHP system installed in Ontario reduces GHG emissions when compared to the grid; in fact, a 1MW CHP system installed in 2020 running 24/7 reduces more than 9,000 tons of carbon over a 15-year period, showing that an efficient use of fossil fuels in all jurisdictions reduces carbon output when compare to local utility grids.
Use a microturbine. Microturbines have the lowest pollution emissions profile of any commercially available combustion technology. The NOx and CO emissions of microturbines are ultra clean because of microturbines’ low air-fuel premix and tightly controlled combustion process. Microturbines’ emissions are so low that they do not require any exhaust after treatment in almost all North American jurisdictions. If further pollutant reduction is required, microturbines can be outfitted with a passive catalyst that, unlike an SCR, does not use urea.
Use renewable biogas. Microturbines can run on biogas just as well as on natural gas. There are hundreds of biogas CHP plants in North America running successfully for decades. The biogas will need to be conditioned prior to injection into the CHP system.
Use Renewable Natural Gas. If a local source of biogas is not available, customers can procure RNG from a variety of sources. RNG is biogas that has been conditioned to be similar to natural gas and injected into the interstate pipeline system. RNG CHP systems are considered renewable energy.
Offset with carbon credits or renewable energy credits. Even natural gas CHP can be carbon neutral by pairing with carbon reductions done elsewhere in the form of carbon credits and/or RECs. This is a fairly simple contractual process that allows the CHP system to offset its local emissions with offsite reductions. As more renewable energy is added to the grid, customers can increase their usage of low carbon fuels and attributes to produce a greener energy stream.
Go with a hybrid microgrid. CHP is an excellent “backbone” for a renewable microgrid that could contain solar energy and battery energy storage. By integrating a baseload CHP system to provide the resiliency and thermal energy, the renewable energy systems allow for an overall lower carbon footprint that can even go to Net Zero.
Run on hydrogen. Many CHP systems, including microturbines, can run on some percentage of hydrogen fuel blended with methane. Many CHP manufacturers, including Capstone Green Energy, are developing CHP systems capable of running on 100% hydrogen. As more sources of “green hydrogen” (not produced by fossil fuels) become commercially available, hydrogen CHP will be a more accessible option.
Electrifying building heat in most places is nearly impossible. Buildings in northern climates require a great deal of heat, much more than the grid infrastructure can currently provide.
Mass electrification will be incredibly expensive. The transition will require massive spending on converting boilers and chillers to heat pumps and increasing electrical services in every building. Building owners, factories and utility ratepayers will be forced to shoulder the economic cost of electrification. Electrifying space heating in Massachusetts with current RPS renewable content is about $.17/ kWh, which is the equivalent of $50/MMBtu gas. Renewable Natural Gas is available for less than that price so the blended cost would be much less.
Under electrification, grid power prices will rise exponentially. The amount of new power generation needed will greatly exceed the current capacity of renewable energy and energy storage. More power plants will need to be built and they will have to run on fossil fuels. This cost will drive power prices up significantly very quickly and the grid will become more GHG-intensive.
No matter what happens, CHP will still be a smart energy hedge. The high cost of grid power makes CHP a financially attractive prospect for building owners.
Reasonable approaches are needed. CHP can and should be part of the effort to “green” building heating. The CHP industry and CHP users will need a spot at the table to ensure that commonsense approaches are given full consideration by policymakers.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “Combined heat and power (CHP) has proven effective in ensuring uninterrupted electric service through multiple major disasters in hospitals, schools, and places of refuge. CHP systems simultaneously generate electricity and produce thermal energy, maintaining needed power, hot water and space conditioning services on—site at high efficiency. And, unlike diesel back-up generators, CHP typically does not require over-land fuel deliveries.”
Since Vergent’s founding ten years ago, our team has helped hundreds of customers install some of the cleanest and greenest energy generation systems. The proof is in the projects, so judge us by our successful track record.