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Cogen Now Available to the Little Guys

Lisa Prevost in Green Ideas on April 14, 2017

New York City

Cogen for Little Guys

Tedom's MicroT35 cogeneration system, suitable for smaller co-ops and condos

April 14, 2017

The first time Matthew Holland, the vice president of business development at Reflective Energy Solutions, talked with the owner of a 138-unit apartment building in Brooklyn about investing in cogeneration, the idea went nowhere. It wasn’t that the owner wasn’t interested. It was simply that the only available systems were too large. The building wouldn’t have received the full energy-saving benefit, since it wasn’t big enough to absorb it. The investment made little sense.

But last year, Holland returned to the property group with good news: a smaller cogeneration unit, already widely used in Europe, was now being marketed in the U.S. Even better, rebate incentives available from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) would significantly reduce the cost of purchase and installation.

“That was really the thing that put it over the top,” Holland says. The property group okayed the installation of the micro-cogeneration unit, a 35-kilowatt model being jointly marketed in the U.S. by its European manufacturer, Tedom, and Tecogen, a provider of clean-energy products based in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Now, the building owner is realizing a 30- to 40-percent savings on electric and gas bills, Holland says. At that rate, the system will pay for itself in roughly three years.

The Brooklyn installation marks the first New York installation by Tecogen of the newly available micro-cogeneration units, a technology that is also known as combined heat and power, or CHP. Tecogen has installed larger cogeneration systems, starting at 60 kilowatts, in all five boroughs, according to Dale Desmarais, the company’s director of business development. Its flagship product, the InVerde, drew particular attention after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012 because several buildings in lower Manhattan that had the system were able to maintain power and hot water during the widespread blackout.

The smaller, 35-kilowatt unit will not provide blackout protection, aside from possibly providing lobby and stairwell lighting when power is down, says Desmarais. But it can reduce a building’s electric and gas bills, while significantly reducing a building’s carbon footprint. It’s best suited to buildings with 80 to 200 units, a market that has been “completely unserved until now,” says Desmarais. “A couple of other companies are attempting to do it now, but we have the highest efficiency of any systems out there.”

Cogen technology is becoming more common in the U.S., but the market here still lags far behind the European market, where it is “more of a standard product,” says Jiˇrí Janša, a regional sales director for Tedom, which is based in the Czech Republic, and a managing director for the joint venture with Tecogen, which is called TTcogen. In Germany alone, Janša notes. some 6,000 cogen units are installed annually for residential and commercial uses.

It’s a new opportunity for the boards of smaller co-ops and condos.

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