Combined Heat and Power Systems Keep the Lights On During Hurricane Sandy

The damage caused by the hurricane to the affected areas led to the collapse of the public transportation system, including roads, tunnels, bridges, trains, subways, parking lots, and even air travel.

Hurricane Sandy was the largest hurricane on record in the Atlantic, with a diameter of 1,100 miles (1,800 km), since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is also estimated to be the costliest Atlantic Hurricane ever, behind only Hurricane Katrina. When Sandy hit landfall on the 29th of October, it caused major damage in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. Despite early warnings and preparation for the hurricane, 24 states were in some way affected by Sandy. Damages are estimated to be nearly 66 billion U.S. dollars and calculating the losses due to business interruption will likely cause the estimate to grow far higher.

The damage caused by the hurricane to the affected areas led to the collapse of the public transportation system, including roads, tunnels, bridges, trains, subways, parking lots, and even air travel. The failure of the electricity infrastructure caused major interruptions to the power supply, causing problems with the water supply, sewers, electrical grids, and telecommunications. At the peak of the storm, over eight million electrical utility customers lived in darkness and had no heat or hot water. The power outage continued, not only for several hours, but for days and weeks. As with many other things in our lives, we typically take a stable electricity supply for granted. Events like Hurricane Sandy remind us how important electric power is in our daily lives - and to our businesses.

One way to ensure a reliable power and heat supply for your business is to operate your own power plant to generate the electricity and heat you need. These types of plants are referred to as combined heat and power plants (CHP), which are sometimes referred to as cogeneration plants. Besides providing reliable and cost effective power, CHP plants are also considered to be friendly to the environment due to their high efficiency, which reduces the production of greenhouse gases. Additionally, the major fuel source of a CHP plant is natural gas, the cleanest of all fossil fuels, even being recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for helping to meet the United States first goal for air quality improvement standards.

And CHP plants are highly efficient. The typical efficiency of a CHP plant is at least 70 percent and can be as high as 80 percent plus. In comparison, a coal-fired power plant operates at a mere efficiency in the mid 30 percent range. Larger combined cycle turbine plants are typically below 50 percent efficient. The conventional driver for a CHP plant is gas-fired turbines. Due to a high exhaust temperature and flow, gas turbines are able to generate a huge amount of heat, which can then be converted to steam, hot water, chilled water, and/or electricity.

During Hurricane Sandy, industrial and commercial businesses and universities and hospitals that had installed a gas turbine driven combined heat and power plant were in a much better position than those who relied on the utility grid. While the grid was incapacitated, the entities with their own power supply were able to operate in island mode, meaning they could operate independent of the grid. There are many examples of businesses that have highly efficient, gas turbine driven generator sets that continued to provide services to their customers with electric power, as well as steam and hot water, during the hurricane.

Solar Turbines has installed numerous gas fired turbine generators sets in the hurricane affected area. These gas turbine generator sets provided critical power and heat to facilities such as hospitals, universities, and factories, keeping them up and running and their power and heat source secure.

The response to the performance of the equipment from customers with a gas turbine system from Solar Turbines was extremely positive. A few examples of those customer's experiences with a Solar® gas turbine combined heat and power system during Hurricane Sandy are shared with you in this article.

New York University (NYU) - NYU operates a 10 MW combined heat and power plant in New York City. The plant utilizes two 5MW Taurus™ 60 gas turbine generator sets that not only provide electricity but deliver heat that would otherwise go to waste. The power plant system serves power and steam to a major portion of the campus, including the larger buildings, as well as most of the Washington Square campus in Manhattan. The Solar gas turbines operated well during the storm. "Our cogen is up and running," said John J. Bradley, the university's assistant vice president for sustainability, energy and technical services."

Danbury Hospital- Danbury Hospital in southwestern Connecticut is a 371 bed comprehensive regional medical center. The hospital utilizes a Solar Turbines 4.5 MW Mercury™ 50 gas turbine and three MW's of standby generators. During the storm, the facility operated without any loss of power and despite most of the businesses in the surrounding area being without power for several days, Danbury Hospital still had lights and heat, according to Plant Manager, Kevin Naurus. The CHP facility enabled the hospital to be fully functional during the storm and continued conducting business and providing the critical and necessary health care necessary for patients.

This hospital in the Northeast continued operations during Hurricane Sandy

Critical care and research facilities with CHP were able to remain powered

Hunterdon Developmental Center. The Hunterdon Cogeneration facility, located in Clinton, New Jersey, is powered by a 4.5 MW Centaur® 50 gas turbine generator set from Solar Turbines. The turbines are operated by Noresco and are utilized to provide power and heat to both a health services complex with living facilities and a correctional facility. During the storm, power was out in the area for several days, but the Solar gas turbine generator driven CHP plant was able to operate in island mode, continuing to power the complex,

Pepco Midtown Thermal Energy Plant- Pepco's Atlantic City, New Jersey's 5.7 MW CHP plant is powered by a Taurus™ 60 gas turbine generator set and is located only a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean - directly in the center of Hurricane Sandy. According to John Howell, Pepco's Maintenance Manager who was at the facility during the storm, the plant operated extremely well and was able to continue providing needed power to the local area, including chilling and heating. The Pepco plant provides power to high profile, mission critical facilities, such as Ceasers, Bally's Park Place, Bally's Wild West, Claridges, Trump Plaza, Trump Taj Mahal, and the Atlantic City Convention Center. Many of these hotels helped house their own employees, local residents, and travelers during and after the storm.

Many commercial and industrial facilities still operate during Hurricane Sandy

These examples underline the importance and need of decentralized power plants that can continue to provide power and heat to people and keep businesses running, even during catastrophic conditions. And gas turbines provide this power with the lowest green house gas emissions, making them an environmentally friendly solution to the security of the businesses, infrastructure, and people of the country.

Even though the electric grid was down, the main gas supply, which typically supplies gas to the gas turbine genertor sets, was never in jeopardy. These stories illustrate that the combination of gas and highly efficient self generation is a winning solution to ensure that the lights stay on, even during the worst of times. Solar gas turbines run in the dark and help secure an efficient and stable energy supply even during catastrophes and security threats to the world.

Another advantage of decentralized CHP plants is that they avoid the need for high-voltage transmission lines. Excess capacity can be supplied to the utility grid and can support the local utilities. Furthermore, a decentralized distribution system also minimizes the black-out risk in bigger areas. During events, such as unscheduled maintenance or natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, the decentralized network can be asked to operate in island mode prior to the event. Because the network is isolated, only a smaller area would be affected if damage occurred to the distribution system within the network.

Overall, these examples show that the businesses who invested in decentralized CHP plants were much better off than those businesses relying on the traditional power supply from a centralized power plant. Beyond the economical advantage of CHP systems, gas turbine CHP systems also supply reliable power and heat when the grid is down. Other benefits include economic dispatch, flexibility to complement renewable energy, heating and cooling solutions, security, and the opportunity to control your power costs. Solar gas turbine packages can even support large local industrial customer's power and steam requirements by locating the power plant at their site.

There are many unavoidable personal and infrastructure challenges when a disaster like Hurricane Sandy strikes. Businesses close, people face relocation, injuries and personal loss occurs, and communication becomes difficult. These challenges are hard on people and businesses. Loosing electric power and process steam can easily be avoided with a CHP system. Solar Turbines has the technology available to provide a product that keeps the lights on and relieves some of the challenges of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy. All of the cases cited in this article, and many more that aren't cited, have a robust and secure energy supply. Those businesses kept their lights on and the people inside were warm and secure. What happened during Hurricane Sandy is a reminder to companies that they need to take into account the potential consequences of not having a secure energy supply. This tragedy will enter the history books and become a distant memory – until the next one. Don't let your business or your clientele be left standing in the dark.

About Solar Turbines. Headquartered in San Diego, California, USA, Solar Turbines Incorporated, a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc. is one of the world's leading manufacturers of industrial gas turbines and compressors, with more than 14,300 units, with over 1.9 billion operating hours of experience, operating in 98 countries around the globe. Besides the power generation examples talked about here, products from Solar Turbines play an important role in the development of oil and natural gas projects around the world. Solar Turbines' products include gas turbine-powered mechanical drive and compressor set packages rated from 1590 to 30,000 horsepower, and gas compressors. Gas turbine driven generator sets are available in the range of 1.2 to 22 megawatts.

Combined heat and power plant applications are just one of many application success stories offered in this article. Benefits of Solar gas turbine power plants are also being achieved functioning in other applications around the world, such as base-load electricity, dispersed power, combined-cycle, peak shaving, district heating and cooling, and mobile and standby power applications. Units are serving customers in a wide variety of facilities, including colleges and universities, hospitals, industrial/processing facilities, municipal utilities, rural electric cooperatives, military installations, and district energy plants, in both fixed and mobile configurations.

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