SUNY ESF to install biomass CHP system

By Anna Austin | April 27, 2011

The State University College of Environmental Science & Forestry will use a $963,000 state grant to install a biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) system.

The system will include a Chiptech gasification boiler that will generate 8,000 pounds of steam per hour at 125 pounds per square inch. It will run on wood pellets, according to SUNY ESF Director of Renewable Energy Systems Michael Kelleher, which will be purchased from nearby pellet manufacturers New England Wood Pellet LLC and Curran Renewable Energy. 

“We chose wood pellets because we will have the system in a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certified building that is under construction, and we wanted an energy dense, clean fuel that would fit in with the character of the building,” Kelleher said.

The CHP system will provide five campus buildings with heat and electricity. “We’ll run the [high-pressure] steam through a Carrier microsteam turbine to generate electricity, and the low-pressure steam coming out of the other end of the turbine will heat our buildings,” he said. There is also a set of natural gas microtubines in the same building, he added. “It’s a balance of two side-by-side systems. Most of the heat will come from the biomass system, but the majority of the electricity will come from the natural gas microturbines. We wanted to go with as much biomass as we could, but that system is thermal-rich compared to electricity it produces.”

In the summer, the biomass system probably won’t be run in order to avoid wasting heat. The electricity needed during that time will be provided by the natural gas microturbines.

 SUNY estimates the system will save the university $350,000-$400,000 a year in heating costs. Currently, SUNY purchases its steam from neighbor Syracuse University, and also purchases its electricity.

The $2.4 million system is expected to pay for itself in five or six years, and SUNY will make use of more than $1.4 million in grants and incentives to help cover the cost. Kelleher said the building that the system will be housed in is currently under construction and should be completed in June 2012. The CHP system will be installed in the fall of 2012 or early in the spring of 2013.

 The project is part of SUNY’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2015.