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The essential CHP checklist – what every consultant needs to know

Specify the ideal CHP system for your clients

A step-by-step guide to finding the CHP system your customers need.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems differ from organisation to organisation. Very few of your clients will have exactly the same needs, so it will be rare to specify the exact same system more than once. Taking a cookie cutter approach to specification could impact on the long-term success of the project. The return on investment is likely to be significantly lower than a custom-specified CHP system.

So what do you need to consider when specifying a custom CHP system for your clients?

1. Initial technical assessment

The first step in any CHP project is to define if it is actually suitable for the site in question. Although most businesses will benefit from CHP, others will not. You will also need to define the size of the CHP system required for optimum financial and environmental benefits.

An energy audit will be essential to identifying the right technologies and capacity. For projects that require retrofitting of a CHP system, you must obtain accurate electricity and heating consumption data. Contact the relevant energy supplier, or install temporary monitoring equipment, to obtain half hourly readings. For new builds, obtain a best-estimate based on the available Building Information Modelling (BIM) data supplied by the project manager. This consumption data is used to create energy profiles and the heat-to-power ratio.

With consumption requirements calculated, you must then move on to other environmental considerations. 

  • How critical is the security of supply? 
  • Does your client have any expansion plans that may increase energy demand and site base load? 
  • Are there any other plans in place for implementing energy saving measures that may affect base load calculations? 
  • Are there any adjacent sites that could use excess electrical and heat energy when demand is low on the main site?

Make sure you keep asking questions until you have a complete understanding of the site and energy requirements.

2. System design considerations

Off-the-shelf CHP systems can be supplied as a complete factory-tested solution – including the heat recovery equipment. But for more complex deployments, or those requiring integration with existing systems will require special consideration.

First assess the physical constraints of where the CHP will be installed. 

  • Is there enough space for the unit – and all the ancillary equipment and pipes?
  • If not, what is the scope of the additional infrastructure work required to accommodate the new system? 
  • What are the environmental impacts of the chosen installation location?
  • Will noise and vibration generated by the unit be disruptive or dangerous?

You must also carefully consider interconnection with other utilities, particularly the primary fuel supply (natural gas, biofuel etc) and the building’s electrical, heating and cooling systems, as well as a connection for remote monitoring.

3. Check permissions

Before making any system recommendation, you must check whether the appropriate permissions are in place. 

  • Will planning permission be required? 
  • Does the proposed system comply with all applicable frameworks (BREEAM, Building Regulations Level 2 etc)?

Ultimately, much of your client’s CHP purchasing decision will be decided on price. You must be able to provide an accurate project cost, and an estimate of ongoing maintenance costs too. This can then be offset against the longer-term cost savings expected from the new CHP system.
Finally, you should outline the benefits and incentives that may be available to your customers. CHP projects often qualify for funding or tax relief. Make sure that your proposal references all applicable schemes and how they are claimed.

The CHP specification process can be complex. If done correctly, your client will be ready to purchase a combined heat and power unit that meets their energy needs today and tomorrow.

Putting it all together

  • The essential steps to recommending the perfect CHP solution are:
  • Obtain accurate site energy data, create load profiles and check the system operational schedule.
  • Optimise the CHP unit selection by sizing to meet actual energy demands.
  • Check the CHP and ancillary equipment can be accommodated on-site.
  • Review project costs and savings.
  • Ensure accreditation and compliance to meet incentives and optimise savings.
  • Consider all options to finance the project.