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Achieving energy autonomy.

Last year's blackout accentuated the need for building owners to take charge of their energy future. And though Congress may enact legislation intended to provide a "fix" for the electrical grid, it is clear the private sector can implement more effective solutions long before the government is able to do so.

While mission critical facilities all have backup capabilities, the prolonged power failure demonstrated to many the inadequacy of their emergency power planning. The growing trend today is for owners to seek some degree of energy autonomy by

implementing solutions that provide a "continuum of independence" from outside forces.

A wide range of options now exist:

Standby Power Systems ... Standby power systems provide the most basic "life safety" features required by code, including emergency lighting, and fire pumps. They "sense" loss of utility power and activate a diesel engine generator to assume critical loads.

Unfortunately, many mission critical facilities discovered during the blackout the limitations of such systems. Without significant "upsizing" and an adequate supply of diesel fuel, these systems cannot maintain operations during a prolonged outage.

The upside is that recent advances in standby power technology has brought down installation costs and created smaller units.

An added benefit to a comprehensive standby power strategy is the issue of power quality. Standby systems can detect voltage irregularities and power surges, kicking in automatically to protect critical systems.

Cogeneration ... Cogeneration uses commercially proven technologies to produce electricity and heat from a single fuel source. These facilities have improved dramatically in unit sizes to allow a smaller footprint; in efficiency, using less fuel to produce more energy; in emissions, resulting in lower NOx; and in the price of the units.

Cogeneration can be designed "in parallel" with a utility to supply partial loads and in an "islanded" configuration operated independently from the utility. This usually includes redundancy in on-site generation equipment in case of failure. Finally, cogeneration can be designed in "islanded mode" with utility backup.

Steam Turbine Generators ... A steam turbine generator accepts superheated or saturated steam that powers turbine blades to generate electricity or drive a process end use, such as a pump, blower, or compressor. Any operation that has a boiler plant for process heating can look to use that capacity to drive a turbine.

The investment in steam turbine equipment can be relatively modest for a power producing capability that can be used as part of normal operations or in an emergency situation.

Waste to Energy ... Waste to energy conversion incinerates waste products from manufacturing facilities and uses the resulting heat to produce steam or hot water that can then be used for heating or for generating electricity. Given a situation where a facility generates waste products that can be used, or proximity to a landfill to make use of methane gas, this approach offers particularly attractive economic advantages.

Fuel Cells ... while thought of as futuristic, fuel cells, which convert hydrogen to electricity, are now being tested in settings that will demonstrate whether the technology is indeed cost effective for large buildings where power quality and reliability are imperative.

The technology holds the promise of enabling a facility to achieve considerable independence from the utility grid.

Although the North American power grid may be the best in the world, energy consumers have no control over its regulation and operation.

In this climate of uncertainty over the reliability of the utility system, it is imperative that businesses and institutions reevaluate their ability to cope with power outages and fluctuations.

Today's improving technologies offer owners a greater incentive than ever to move towards independence by taking control of their own power supply.

GENE MARTIN, PRESIDENT, EMCOR ENERGY & TECHNOLOGIES
COPYRIGHT 2004 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Martin, Gene
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 11, 2004
Words:608
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