In New York's Distributed Energy Future, Will Co-Generation Still Reign?

Deck: 

Distributed energy has a long history in the state – with co-generation, or combined heat and power, playing the dominant role. How is that portfolio changing today?

Distributed energy has a long history in the state – with co-generation, or combined heat and power, playing the dominant role. How is that portfolio changing today?

Fortnightly Magazine - January 2015

CHP has fueled New York State's economy - and shaped the famed skyline of New York City - since 1881. That was the year New York Steam, a predecessor of Consolidated Edison, completed construction of the first central steam plant , consisting of 48 boilers located at Cortlandt, Dey, Greenwich and Washington Streets. Its 225-foot chimney was the second tallest structure in the city, just below the spire of Trinity Church. The distributed energy system, producing electricity and heat, grew along with the city in the 20th century, making possible the elegant smokestack-free profiles of art deco giants like the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, and the Empire State Building.

Today, CHP (combined heat and power) still comprises the majority share - 57 percent - of the state's distributed energy resource (DER) portfolio. It's an effective distributed resource that has endured, but what role will it play as the state drives toward a smart energy future in an era of aging infrastructure, superstorms and regulatory uncertainty?

In 2014, the New York Independent Service Operator (NYISO) commissioned global energy consultancy DNV GL to assess the role and potential for distributed energy resources in the state. Its aim was to examine the current and potential roles of distributed energy in the ISO region. The study, referred to herein as the "2014 DER Study," provides an extensive examination of the complex forces at work in developing the economic, technical, and regulatory aspects of a grid integrated with distributed energy resources. It also documents CHP's central role, finds a surprisingly robust solar presence, and examines the characteristics needed for any particular distributed resource to contribute to a reliable, clean, economically viable grid.

Figure 1 - New York share by DER Type

Find the full August 2014 DER Study, "A Review of Distributed Energy Resources," by DNV GL, at the NYISO or DNV GL  websites.

CHP in Today's Portfolio

The pioneering Con Edison CHP system remains in operation today as the largest district heating system in the United States "using waste heat from both electric generators and dedicated steam facilities to provide space heating and cooling" according to CEERE (Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy), located at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Con Edison's online history page notes that it has "105 miles of mains and service pipes, providing steam for heating, hot water, and air conditioning to approximately 1,700 customers in Manhattan." Yet according to a 2011 report from ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient