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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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Energy plant earns award for reducing pollution, improving efficiency

Princeton University's energy plant has received a 2007 Energy Star CHP Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy for its efforts to reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency.

CHP stands for combined heat and power -- also known as cogeneration -- an efficient, clean and reliable approach to generating power and thermal energy from a single fuel source. CHP is not a specific technology but an application of technologies to meet an energy user's needs.

In 1996, Princeton installed a natural gas-fired CHP system to support the University's electricity, heating and cooling, and research needs. The University's energy plant produces all of the steam and chilled water and approximately half of the electric power used by the campus. The plant runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and includes a state-of-the-art real-time economic dispatch system to optimize energy costs for all steam, chilled water and power supplied to the campus.

The University's CHP system requires approximately 21 percent less fuel than typical onsite thermal generation and purchased electricity, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 27,936 tons per year, according to the EPA.

"Our energy plant uses a very advanced real-time dispatch system to determine the most cost-effective means of supplying utilities to the campus at all times," said Ted Borer, energy plant manager. "It is a highly-customized system developed by Princeton facilities engineering and Icetec, an outside company.

"The price of power and energy demands on campus change every few minutes," he explained. "Using this system we are able to make the most cost-effective decisions about whether to make or buy power, burn natural gas or diesel fuel, operate steam-driven chillers or electric-driven chillers, and charge or discharge our thermal storage system. I am not aware of any plant of any size that runs as sophisticated a real-time analysis to make these decisions. So even while doing our best to reduce cost, we are still able to operate the cogeneration system in an exemplary manner that significantly reduces emissions compared to the more common practice of simply operating boilers to make steam and purchasing power from the utility."

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