5 Steps to a Successful Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Project

A message from our CEO, Over the course of Regatta Solutions’ history we have commissioned more Combined Heat and Power (CHP) projects than any other…

A message from our CEO,
pic-steve-bio-2Over the course of Regatta Solutions’ history we have commissioned more Combined Heat and Power (CHP) projects than any other company in California. That’s a bold statement to make but our results speak for themselves. As Capstone Turbine’s West Coast Distributor, Regatta Solutions has an install base of over 500 microturbines across 150 clients and experience with hundreds of successful CHP systems throughout California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada.  While our company has performed numerous turn key projects when requested by our clients, we often supply products and solutions to the energy developer community for installation by third parties.  With all that experience, we’ve learned a few things about successful projects.  Here are some do’s and don’ts for any client looking to embark on a distributed generation journey.

  1. Choose an Experienced Developer

Does your developer have experience delivering successful CHP projects?  Installing successful technical projects requires more than just financing experience or knowing how to put a financial model in place.  Many energy project developers are focused on selling a concept and severely lack the practical knowledge required to actually implement projects. This could pose a significant financial risk to your project – you don’t want to uncover a large hidden cost very late in the process because the developer was unaware of a requirement.  Some developers might assemble teams with the right engineering disciplines but nevertheless, these teams have never had the practical experience of engineering, installing and commissioning a CHP system.  In the last eight years, we have seen some unfathomable things, from improperly sized electrical panels to expensive and unnecessary copper pool water piping. Don’t be a guinea pig for a developer!  Make sure your vetting process is rigorous.  Visit the developer’s past project sites and validate their customers’ experiences.  Don’t make a decision based on a spreadsheet!

  1. Consider the whole solution not just the Prime Mover

When deciding on a CHP solution, we suggest that instead of focusing on the prime mover, you also consider the component parts that will make up your system.  Are the manufacturers of those parts known for value, quality, customer service, warranty and a history of success in CHP systems. The variety of components that make up a CHP solution may include heat exchangers, steam generators, chillers, electrical devices and of course the engine or turbine itself.  We have consistently seen sites where the prime mover was blamed for performance issues when in fact it was an ancillary component that was failing or improperly sized. The integrity to stand behind a product and admit fault when failure occurs is of utmost importance, which is why we’ve been proud to do business with Capstone Turbine.  Unfortunately, not all manufacturers operate that way; issues will happen and you want companies involved who want to be your partner. Having the right partners will help insure a high degree of reliability once the systems get implemented.

  1. Don’t just blindly trust a big, expensive engineering firm

Experience counts.  Just because an engineering firm is a big name, doesn’t mean they have experience with cogeneration.  Specific CHP project experience is a must.  We have often seen the very large reputable engineering firms make costly mistakes for their clients with designs that were more hypothetical than practical.  Often, solutions are over engineered, significantly impacting project cost.  Challenge your engineer to look at multiple technologies out there not just the ones that they are comfortable with. Challenge your engineer to seek out manufacture to provide input and conduct a drawing review before their solutions are presented to you.

  1. Have you thought about Controls?

Controls of the CHP solution are often an afterthought; they’re selected last and only considered during commissioning.  Our recommendation is to make controls one of your first considerations when designing the CHP solution.  Proper sequencing and balancing of energy resources can make or break the value derived from your installation.  Also ask, who else could benefit from proper data collection?  Often this benefits external sources that may require data to conduct an economic validation, in addition to measuring greenhouse gases.

  1. Who will do the maintenance?

After the project is complete and the developer and general contractor are gone, your only relationship remains to a maintenance organization who will maintain your prime mover and associated equipment. It is also important to adequately consider the maintenance process during design to make sure that the system can be easily maintain throughout its life. Next, what is the value proposition of the maintenance supplier? And how do you know that they have what it takes?  We suggest that, at a minimum, you ask about licensed and qualified personnel, parts inventories, history of customer satisfaction and average fleet uptime.  What else have they done or can they do to maximize system uptime?  At Regatta, we’ve added controls to our system to allow them to call home and report faults when they occur. We can either make a fix remotely or make sure that the service technician is prepared with the right parts, before he even heads to the site for a diagnostic.  What will your maintenance provider do when something breaks?

  1. Summary

Don’t be afraid to take the next step and investigate if CHP is the right solution for your application.  But when you do, make sure you’re as informed as possible about your options and about the value that your contractor or developer is really bringing to the table.  Regatta Solutions can provide you with a quick assessment to evaluate if your enterprise is a candidate for a CHP installation.  Let us know how we can be of service.

Steven Acevedo
President and CEO
Regatta Solutions, Inc.