Power-Up with Co-Generation A Look at our Next Generation’s Technology

The process of producing energy for metropolitan area co-ops and condos has dramatically evolved in recent years, advancing to the point in which Lewis Kwit, the president of Energy Investment Systems, based in Manhattan, makes a relatively accurate—and amusing—comparison. “The old way of using a traditional energy-producing system is like using a chainsaw to cut butter,” he chuckles.

Specifically, though, what are these new energy-producing technologies? Can they save money, long term and short term, for a co-op,  condo or HOA? How can they be acquired when it seems, quite literally, as if major commercial energy suppliers are the only option available? Some co-op and condo communities are exploring these questions, and coming up with solutions that are saving them both energy and money. In New York, most co-ops and condos receive energy from Con Edison, or a similar secondary supplier, an energy service company or ESCO. Many property managers and HOAs, however, are taking some of these matters into their own hands—so to speak—through implementing co-generation technologies. 

Some Definitions

By definition, co-generating buildings produce a portion—sometimes a larger portion; sometimes smaller—of the energy required to operate, on their own with the appropriate equipment, relying on major suppliers only for the balance of what they cannot produce. Sometimes, they even sell surplus energy back to the suppliers, making a profit from their efficiency. 

In reality, co-generation has existed for decades; it has, though, required time to gain support and visibility. In fact, many people aren’t fully aware the technology exists today. For those who do not, co-generation is the use of natural gas-fueled energy to create electricity, and is oftentimes called combined heat and power (CHP) because it delivers two forms of energy…electricity and hot/chilled water. 

According to representatives at the EPA, “Combined heat and power technologies are efficient and clean approaches to generating electric power and useful thermal energy from a single fuel source. Combined heat and power is used either to replace or supplement conventional separate heat and power (SHP).” 


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  • When I've explored this technology a couple years ago I was told that it didn't make sense for Co-ops/Condo's with under 110 units. Is that still the case?
  • While up front costs of CHP equipment may be high, a "shared savings" or power purchase agreement whereby the vendor gets paid over time based on an agreed share of the energy cost savings makes the cost easily manageable. The payback will take longer but the building still derives its share of the cost savings and ultimately owns the equipment. Another feature of some CHP systems is "black start" capability: in the event of a grid failure, the equipment will start and provide energy to certain pre-selected building equipment such as an elevator, pumps., etc. Bill Ragals Senior Director, Business Development First Service Project Management
  • When The Next Blackout Happens Is Your Building Prepared
  • New Rule 111d A new proposed federal rule regulating CO2 emissions from existing electric power plants will take effect in 2020, establishing new state goals that will cut nationwide power-related CO2 emissions 30 percent by 2030. That’s a big cut, and pundits and utilities warn it means power rates will go up significantly. But that does not have to be the case. The new rule is an opportunity to actually reduce rates [1] while building a more resilient, flexible and efficient grid. How so? The average electric power plant turns just one-third of its input energy into useful power. The rest is squandered, dumped into the air or into lakes, bays and rivers as waste heat. But most of that excess heat is valuable thermal energy that can be captured and used to provide real services such as heating or cooling buildings, powering industrial processes, or meeting domestic hot water needs. The technology to do this is neither new nor experimental. Combined heat and power (CHP) and district energy (DE) systems have helped cities, communities and facilities in all regions of the country reduce their emissions, improve local resiliency and stimulate economic development for more than a century. They’re complementary technologies that can exist separately, but when combined together they offer states and utilities a unique set of tools to meet CO2 requirements while providing substantial additional benefits, including a more reliable heat and power supply, the chance to utilize local and renewable fuel sources, and reduced energy costs. Category 10 MW CHP 10 MW PV 10 MW Wind Annual Capacity Factor 85% 22% 34% Annual Useful Heat 103417 MWht None None Footprint Required 6,000 sq ft 1,740,000 sq ft 76,000 sq ft Capital Cost $20 million $60.5 million $24.4 million Annual Energy Savings 308,100 MMBtu 196,462 MMBtu 303,623 MMBtu Annual CO2 Savings 42,751 Tons 17,887 Tons 27,644 Tons Annual NOx Savings 59.4 Tons 16.2 Tons 24.9 Tons