Divided opinions on Delaware CHP plant

A proposed combined heat and power plant in Delaware, US, has been the subject of debate in the state this week as critics are unhappy about the energy source being used and the location of the facility.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that that the facility at the data center of the former Chrysler site in Newark has the potential to significantly reduce emissions of nitrogen and sulphur and carbon dioxides, compared with traditional plants. The Newark project would produce 950,000 tons of carbon a year, the firm said, still much less than conventional power counterparts.
West Chester Data Center
Project critics questioned the origin and value of the EPA’s comments, pointing out the unit involved administers a generic program encouraging industry to maximize use of heat in power production.

West Chester-based The Data Centers have pointed to the efficiency of the plant, which would have a capacity of 279 MW and would repurpose waste heat to provide energy to drive cooling systems, among other uses.

“Everything we’ve researched has shown that the best energy generator we can create is a combined heat and power system,” company CEO Gene Kern said in a statement, reported by News Journal.

Under The Data Centers’ proposal, piped-in natural gas would fuel water-cooled, jet engine-like combustion turbines that would spin generators. Instead of venting heat to the atmosphere, steam from turbines would be ducted away to turn a second generator, or to supply building heat and cooling needs. It could also be piped to users offsite.

The second-stage reuse of steam for heat or extra electricity would qualify the operation as an energy-efficient, combined heat and power project.

“The analysis conducted by the CHP Partnership focused solely on the proposed CHP system and did not take into account local factors such as air-quality attainment, proximity to schools or homes, or others that would be considered as part of a ‘new source review’ air permitting process,” said EPA spokeswoman Carissa Cyran.

TDC says that generating all of its own power on site is highly reliable and cleaner than buying from the regional electric grid, which includes power from dirtier fossil fuel sources.

However Joe Minott, executive director of the Clean Air Council, said the EPA’s comments did not “change the issue in my opinion, which is: is this the right energy source for this project, at this location?”

“If they added some solar and other renewables, and had to use some power off the grid, that would probably be greener overall than building a whole new plant,” Minott said.

The EPA’s letter highlighted TDC’s plans to provide useful heat to the University of Delaware campus; however, UD spokeswoman Andrea Boyle last week said that is incorrect.

She said the university has “no plans” to purchase power or steam produced by the system ” planned on 43 acres at the west corner of the university’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research campus.

TDC’s use of cogeneration, rather than conventional generation, avoids about 1,400 tons of nitrogen oxides; 9,200 tons of sulfur dioxide; and more than a million tons of carbon annually, according to estimates by the EPA’s CHP partnership.

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