KeySpan Provides On-site Power Generation, Resulting in Cost Savings and Increased Reliability

(by Jim Douglass - April 2002 - from Condo Media)

The adage must be true. Older is wiser. In the case of the two-tower,  250-unit Marina Point Condominium Association, taking advantage of on-site combined heat and power generation technology (CHP) is going t yield multiple benefits for its nearly 500 residents. While the view certainly hasn't changed over the two decades that the residents have lived on the peninsula jutting out into Dorchester Bay overlooking Downtown Boston, the need for smart energy choices has become more important than ever.

Rising Energy Costs

Facility manager Dick Brown was looking at rising energy costs while Marina Point was searching for innovative ways to contain condo fees and find resources to meet impending maintenance demands.

The answer arrived on a cool day in October of 2000 when Aegis Energy, EDF Group and KeySpan Energy Delivery visited the association. Aegis' Bob Olmstead told Dick he could put together a proposal for natural-gas-fired co-generators to be installed in the towers' existing boiler rooms that would not only produce electricity on site, but also recover the waste heat and direct it to the boilers, domestic hot water system and ventilation.

In January Dick visited one of Aegis' growing number of co-generator projects in Greater Boston at Boston Land's 150-unit Francis Cabot Lowell Mills complex in Waltham. Seeing was a big step towards believing. In March, KeySpan approved $144,800 in technology demonstration grants and engineering got underway on the project.

Efficiencies Gained

One natural-gas-fired Tecogen unit (about the size of a large office desk) per tower now quietly generates 75 kilowatts of electricity. That not only slashes estimated annual monthly electrical costs from about $140,000 to $47,000, but efficiencies gained through the preheating of boiler-bound water will yield total annual savings of about $52,000. "I thought it sounded like a pretty good deal when Dick (Brown) proposed it for us," said Marina Point Chairman Paul Reynolds. "But we still had the project independently evaluated, and when the numbers checked out we decided to go with it."

"Efficiency" is certainly one energy buzzword these days. The other is reliability. As electrical distributors struggle to maintain distribution systems to handle the ever increasing demands of their customers, generating much of your own electricity not only can make financial sense, but has the added benefit of reducing a corresponding amount of strain on the system.

In addition to making sense for cost-savings and reliability, co-generation can also make green-friendly owners feel good. Natural Gas, which is the cleanest hydrocarbon, significantly reduces emissions, an issue for some properties in urban areas. Additionally, removing oil tanks removes the liabilities that go along with on=site storage of heating oil. And in the context of the energy policy goal of reducing demand for imported oil, nearly 98 percent of the nation's natural gas in produced in North America.

The Best Candidate

The best candidate for such installations are 100-unit or greater communities with hydronic (boiler) heat plants and master metered for electricity, said Aegis' Olmstead. "From the time we reach agreement, to flipping the switch, it takes about 12 to 16 weeks," he said. "After things re up and running we provide periodic savings summaries that detail the number of kilowatts generated over a period of time, and the number of therms of heat recovered fro heating needs."

Marina Point joins a growing number of communities locally that have taken advantage of the Aegis/KeySpan partnership. Wingate, an extended health care facility in Brighton, Country Club Heights in Woburn, Harbor Point Apartment in Dorchester, Deutches Altenheim Nursing Home in West Roxbury and Francis Cabot Lowell Mills are some of the others. Soon to be up and running are Fenno House in Quincy, Maplewood Place in Melrose and Kings Beach Tower in Lynn.

"With KeySpan's program we can offer an accelerated payback," said Olmstead. "And if electricity prices keep rising, the savings only increase."

Supreme Energy will be the primary sponsor, with additional support from KeySpan Energy Delivery and Aegis Energy, EDF Group, of a May 9 education program, "De-Regulation and Co-Generation," part of the Rental Housing Association's (RHA) Energy Buying Series.

Bill Riordan, sales manager at Supreme Energy and a CAI-New England Board member, has put together a panel of six industry experts who will lead a three-hour program covering energy issues of cost and consumption. The panel will review the basics of co-generation, how it can save money in buildings with high electric use, discuss rebate programs and present two case studies.

The cost is $35 for RHA members and $50 for non-members. Reservations for "De-Regulation and Co-Generation," which will be held at the Marriot Copley Place, can be made by calling the RHA at 617 423+-8700, ex 305. 

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