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New Gas Turbines Now Generating Onsite Electricity

New gas turbine installed on campus that generates onsite electricity.

The American University campus may be closed, but the university continues to make strides to decrease carbon emissions by increasing onsite power generation and improving central plant efficiency through cogeneration.

In April, gas turbines, installed atop the Asbury Central Plant roof, were started and began generating on-site electricity providing heat and power for the university. The five new natural gas micro-turbines, rated at 200 KWH (Kilowatt-Hours) each, can generate a total of 1 megawatt of electricity per hour (equivalent to approximately the amount of electricity used by 330 homes for one hour).

The turbines convert ignited natural gas into heat and electricity, using technology similar to what is used in turbo chargers, rotary engines, and jet planes, where hot exhaust from ignited natural gas powers the electricity generator. The electricity and exhaust generated by the turbine increases the heat available for campus buildings, domestic hot water needs, and for driving absorption chillers to help cool our science buildings in the summer. For a detailed view of the process, you can watch a short video.

By co-generating energy onsite, not only is the central plant’s function becoming more efficient, but there is a significant reduction in AU’s off-site electrical energy generation, purchasing, and delivery. This reduction in off-site energy has several benefits:

  • Electricity generated “onsite” does not stress the local PJM or PEPCO power grid and is not subject to peak demand concerns or charges
  • Electricity generated “onsite” eliminates significant losses from transmission and the associated increase in carbon emissions
  • Electricity generated and utilized “onsite” is not subject to the Public Utility commission tariff structure or the associated high tax and regulatory burdens

The turbines are the latest upgrades to the university’s central plant infrastructure and strategic energy efficiency projects, which continue to push AU to the forefront of leadership in green technologies both regionally and nationally. AU’s efforts also continue to align the campus with the District of Columbia’s city energy efficiency goals.