The New Generation in Co-Generation

“There were many lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy.  For example”, says Ira Meister, President and CEO Matthew Adam Properties, “we learned that hi-rise buildings are not immune to power outages caused by flooding that can affect a single property or a wide area.  When this occurs, a separate back-up generator is needed to maintain power, but that is expensive.  Now, however, there is a way to have a continuous operating back-up in a system aligned with a co-generation.”

The back-up generator called “Black Start” is produced by Tecogen, a leader in the field of co-generation.  Matthew Adam Properties is working with Tecogen to evaluate the installation of co-generation in several buildings it manages.

Peter Goldsmith, Field Sales Specialist, Tecogen says. “Since Sandy, we’ve been getting at least a call a day inquiring about ‘Black Start.’”

Originally, co-generation involved using the steam produced by boilers to power generators in buildings. This, however, required electric power to keep the water heaters and boilers operating.  Meister says the Tecogen system his company is exploring (called CHP, “combine heat and power”) generates electricity using a natural gas-fueled engine, which immediately reduces electrical consumption. Natural gas is cleaner and more efficient than oil and less costly than oil or steam.

Meister says that while working with Tecogen the company explained how CHP could be used to provide energy in the event of a blackout or situations such as occurred with Hurricane Sandy when flooding caused Con Ed to lose power in much of Manhattan below 40th Street.  Rather than having a separate generator which would be costly and dependent on having sufficient fuel to operate, the emergency generator component of the co-generation system runs continuously and can be utilized for an emergency, though not at full power.

There are financing incentives through NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Agency) that can reduce the initial costs.

During Sandy, a large residential co-op in southern Manhattan benefitted from having the Tecogen co-generation system with the back-up generator. When Con Ed cut power, Tecogen’s proprietary inverter and microgrid technology continued to provide power for the building.  The system powered the entire building and ran 24/7 under computerized control from an off-site monitoring station until power was restored by Con Ed.