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Improving Technology, Proving Feasibility, and Reducing Costs of Micro-CHP

Micro combined heat and power (micro-CHP) systems are an energy-efficient technology that simultaneously provide heat and electricity to households and businesses. They are still niche products in the U.S., partially due to historically high initial costs, poor matching of thermal and electrical loads, and the complexity of distribution and installation. To make these products viable in the marketplace, low-cost, pre-engineered systems are needed.

Research, development and demonstration programs on micro-CHP and microgrids at GTI are focusing on reducing the environmental impact of heat and power generation and bringing costs down. GTI is engaged with over a dozen national and international micro-CHP developers to test technologies in our labs, validate long-term performance and durability in the field, and help promote acceptance in U.S. residential and light commercial markets.

In addition to GTI’s CHP laboratory featuring a climate controlled environmental test chamber for optimizing equipment and systems under a full range of conditions, we are also developing a microgrid that integrates CHP with other residential appliances such as heat pumps, water heaters, renewable photovoltaics, and energy storage systems to facilitate development and testing.

Project Highlight:

Supported by UTD, PERC, and New Jersey Natural Gas (through ETP), GTI researchers evaluated the product performance, fit, and feasibility and provided recommendations for optimizing an early stage 4-6kW M-TriGen PowerAire packaged distributed generation and self-powered space heating and water heating technology. Following system modifications as a result of GTI’s R&D, GTI is now performing long-term durability testing of a second-generation system to prepare for market adoption.

Laboratory research led to a high-profile demonstration supported by NYSERDA and National Grid at a Brooklyn brownstone designed by an award-winning New York architect. In addition, the PowerAire will be displayed in a show home at the NAHB International Builders' Show in Las Vegas in 2020 supported by Southwest Gas, and plans are underway to feature it in a Parade of Homes in Michigan with DTE.

Project Highlight:

With funding support from the California Energy Commission, SoCal Gas and UTD, GTI performed lab evaluations of a promising micro-CHP technology from Denmark-based EC Power MCHP Corporation. The system uses advanced combustion control and post-combustion NOx reduction processes to generate extremely clean heat and power.

In fact, GTI facilitated CARB-compliant emissions testing of the system in its lab, and it was proven in initial evaluations the technology could meet stringent California emission regulations. It would be the first internal combustion engine-based system less than 50 Horsepower to do so.

In collaboration with key industry partner A.O. Smith, GTI’s research helped form a strategic partnership between Lochinvar, an industry-leading high-efficiency boiler and water heater manufacturer, and EC Power to launch the XRGi25 micro-CHP product in the U.S. market.

Under a new California Energy Commission project, the Lochinvar XRGi25 system will be evaluated in the lab to collect qualifying emissions data for CARB DG certification application. Upon certification, GTI will conduct a showcase demonstration at a prominent health club chain in California to confirm it can meet long-term emissions regulations. These data will move the technology toward becoming the only CARB DG certified micro-CHP system.

Moreover, in collaboration with Lochinvar and SoCal Gas, periodic data will be collected in field demonstrations, and the aged post-combustion emission control equipment will be brought back into the lab to assess persistent emissions compliance.

Through these tests and demonstrations, performance and cost-effectiveness of the system will be confirmed, providing insight on lifetime cost and revenue streams needed for consumers to make informed decisions.

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