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.
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).”