Canadian Biomass Magazine

SUNY ESF campus starts pellet CHP system

September 7, 2013
By Scott Jamieson

suny_biomass_chpSeptember 7, 2013, Syracuse, NY - A New York State university has fired up a combined heat and power (CHP) system that will save money and reduce GHG emissions.

The CHP system is housed within the SUNY
College of Environmental Science and Forestry's (ESF) Gateway Center,
which was officially opened September 6, and uses wood  pellets and natural gas
to provide the campus with 65 per cent of its heating needs and 20
per cent of its electrical power.

"Today we ramp up testing as we connect each piece of technology
into the operation. At full power the CHP reduces campus-wide fossil
fuel usage by 9,000 barrels of oil annually and lowers campus utility
costs by 20 per cent," said ESF President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr.

"We made a commitment on this campus not just to design a building but to design a building that will teach," Murphy said.


The Gateway Center is a centerpiece of the college's Climate
Action Plan, which states ESF's commitment to achieving carbon
neutrality by 2015. In addition, the Gateway Center, with its Trailhead
Cafe, ESF College Bookstore, conference center and gathering areas,
serves as a hub for campus activity. A portion of the College's renowned
Roosevelt Wildlife Collection is also on display.

The Gateway Center has a high-performance building envelope: a
bioclimatic façade that controls thermal loss and solar gain to minimize
building design loads. Building design is integrated with innovative
energy systems connecting to the campus infrastructure.

Renewable fuels are used to help reduce ESF's carbon footprint
and the building showcases a variety of technologies to further
research, community engagement and the college's educational mission.
The CHP will serve as a teaching tool, especially for students enrolled
in ESF's new sustainable energy management major and renewable energy

The wood pellet-fired gasifier is connected to a steam boiler
that produces 8,000 pounds of high-pressure steam per hour. The
high-pressure steam is run through a turbine to produce electricity and
the low-pressure steam exiting the turbine is piped into five campus
buildings to provide heat.

There are two natural gas-fired steam boilers to allow the system
to efficiently meet peak and seasonal loads. The larger natural
gas-fired boiler produces 10,000 pounds of steam per hour. Again, the
high-pressure steam from this boiler is fed into the steam turbine
producing electricity and the low-pressure steam is used for heat.

Because heat demands are low in the summer, a smaller natural gas
steam boiler is put into operation producing just 2,000 pounds of
low-pressure steam to meet any summer needs.

There are also three natural gas-fired microturbines that are
part of the system. The microturbines burn the natural gas to produce
heat, which spins the turbine to generate electricity. The exhaust heat
from the process is captured and converted to low-pressure steam in a
heat recovery boiler and distributed via heat exchangers through the
Gateway Center plus Jahn Laboratory, Illick Hall, Moon Library and Baker

A passive solar thermal unit on the upper roof of the building
produces hot water for domestic use while a garden roof comprising
native New York plants on the second floor roof helps insulate the
Gateway Center and reduce storm water runoff. The roof is open to campus

Air handlers maintain indoor air quality and distribute air
through the ventilation system. Most traditional systems utilize only
one but the Gateway design incorporated three air handlers, one for each
of the three floors because each floor has different occupancy patterns
and use.

"We have made the energy systems and sustainability features of
the building prominent to engage all who enter with our message of a
sustainable energy future," said Michael Kelleher, ESF's executive
director of energy and sustainability.

Other key components of the Gateway Center CHP include an
electrostatic precipitator that reduces particulate emissions by up to
90 per cent and a system to collect ash, a byproduct of the wood pellet
combustion process. The collected ash is used to return micronutrients
to the ESF forested properties.

  • Cost of the CHP system: $3.2 million
  • Annual savings: $350,000

*The wood pellets come from Schuyler, N.Y., while ESF is working
to develop wood pellets from shrub willow harvested from ESF

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