Small power system delivers big results at Wesleyan University

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 9:45 am EST

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Christopher Nagle, General Manager - Engine Business, North America , Dresser-Rand, A Siemens Business

With the winter college sports season getting underway, everyone will be focused on the games. But at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, we’re excited about the innovative combined heat and power (CHP) system that’s been installed in the school’s athletic facility.  This CHP solution, powered by a Guascor engine, not only serves as the primary heat source for the athletic facility, but also saves the university an estimated average of $1,000 a day from lower gas and electricity usage.

Wesleyan turned to a CHP system in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which left the campus without much of its power for a week.  To prevent power failures like this in the future, school officials went looking for an efficient, effective and reliable power generation solution. The university chose to take advantage of a program in Connecticut that provides grants to organizations in the state that invest in microgrid or distributed energy projects.  Wesleyan was the first in Connecticut to be approved for a microgrid project – and was the only applicant that proposed a CHP solution.

Commissioned in March 2014, the 676 kilowatt-electric system provides hot water for basic services, keeps the pool temperature at a warm 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and heats the hundreds of gallons of 150 degree water needed for the building’s ice rink.  The Guascor engine helps Wesleyan optimize the energy potential of the facility by combining heating with on-site power generation.  The system provides steam, generated from the engine’s exhaust, to the campus.  By generating electricity on-site and recovering heat that would typically be wasted in a conventional power plant, Wesleyan not only increases energy efficiency, but also substantially reduces energy costs and carbon emissions. 

“In a project like this, what’s important is reliability,” said Alan Rubacha, director of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant. “That’s why we chose Dresser-Rand’s Guascor engine. We wanted an engine that was going to be available 95 percent of the year or better. And so far, we’re hitting about 95 percent. We also wanted a maintenance team that would be here in an hour or two to fix any problem that we had. The installation and commissioning were completed flawlessly. There were no issues at all.”

The trend toward distributed energy systems gives users, like Wesleyan, the opportunity to implement innovative solutions to address their power generation needs.  As more communities look for innovative ways to provide power, this system at Wesleyan University serves as an example of the future of power generation.