Today, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the selection of seven projects that will receive up to $10 million towards the research and development of technologies that enable small-to-midsize manufacturers to use combined heat and power (CHP) systems to provide services to the electric grid.
A reliable and resilient grid is critical to U.S. economic growth and energy security. As the grid interconnects a growing number of renewable energy sources – like wind and solar – the intermittent nature of power generation from these renewable sources creates challenges for power system operations. Electric utilities and other system operators face an increasing and immediate need for additional power to keep the electric grid stable and secure.
CHP, also known as cogeneration, is a set of mostly gas-fired distributed generation technologies that produce electricity and thermal energy onsite. These systems can provide utilities and grid operators with a cost-effective way to obtain the grid services they need to stabilize the electric power system and keep it running. CHP can also help improve the resiliency of the U.S. electric grid by providing supplemental power during natural disasters, and help reduce the strain on existing grid infrastructure by meeting peak demand, reducing congestion, and improving overall power quality. In addition, these systems can also provide facility owners with more efficient and lower cost electricity.
Today, CHP is widely used in large industrial facilities where they have the manpower and expertise to support cost-effective installation and operation of large CHP systems. However, small-to-midsize facilities could also benefit from flexible and cost-effective CHP. Such systems would have the benefits of conventional CHP, but could also provide support to the grid in the form of electricity supply, frequency regulation, and reserves (capacity available as needed).
Through this research, DOE is looking to enable the private sector development of flexible CHP systems for small-to-midsize facilities that can automatically and seamlessly provide essential grid services and are easier to install and operate. The selected projects will conduct research on CHP technologies in two areas of interest to DOE: (1) power electronics and control systems and (2) electricity generation components.
Clemson University – Clemson, SC
- This project will develop a power conditioning system converter and a corresponding control system for flexible CHP (F-CHP) systems. It will enable high speed gas turbines to more effectively provide grid support functions and could be readily applied in new CHP installations, or potentially retrofit some applications
ElectraTherm, Inc. – Flowery Branch, GA
- This project will develop a high temperature Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) generation unit to provide additional power when needed by the grid, while also maintaining useful thermal energy for use in CHP applications. The ORC developed under this project will overcome the current limitation of useful thermal energy after the bottoming cycle.
GE Global Research – Niskayuna, NY
- This project will develop a set of full-size grid-interface converter system and control solutions to interconnect small-to-midsize CHP engines to the low-voltage to medium-voltage utility grid. The enhanced microgrid controller would enable engagement of a CHP system operator with the electric power grid operator through generator and/or microgrid controls.
Siemens Corporation – Princeton, NY
- This project will develop an improved CHP system by demonstrating key novel components with computer simulations of standard technologies. The project will use a supercritical CO2 bottoming cycle to increase electrical output to respond to grid requests. The approach will optimize design of power systems, develop some key components (advanced heat exchangers) and demonstrate their performance in actual rig tests to prove the feasibility of the complete system.
Southwest Research Institute – San Antonio, TX
- The objective of this project is to expand the operational window of gas turbines for greater turndown, allowing for more flexibility in the power/heat ratios and enable grid support by CHP systems. This will be accomplished by developing a low-emission combustion system capable of sustaining combustion during high turndown operation. The project focuses on the Solar Titan 130 combustor, and will expand the operating window to allow for turndown to 30-40% load.
University of Tennessee, Knoxville – Knoxville, TN
- This project will develop a power conditioning system converter and a corresponding control system for flexible CHP (F-CHP) systems. The power conditioning system (PCS) converter and controller will support different kinds of CHP sources, and will be scalable to form at needed power to serve as the interface connector between CHPs and a medium voltage (MV) grid. This project provides foundational work that could allow various CHPs/Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) to work together and interface directly with the utility medium voltage grid. The technology could support multiple device microgrids in the future.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute – Blacksburg, VA
- This project will develop a modular, scalable medium voltage power converter featuring stability-enhanced grid-support functions for future flexible CHP systems operating in small-to midsize U.S. manufacturing plants. The project provides foundational work on power electronics and control systems enabled by advanced WBG technology. It is capable of being implemented into a variety of existing and future CHP systems using a wide range of prime mover technologies.
EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) supports early-stage research to advance innovation in U.S. manufacturing. AMO’s combined heat and power (CHP) research and development is part of EERE’s mission to advance affordable, reliable energy that promotes economic growth and energy security.