Two California Hotels Slash Bills With Cogeneration Systems

IRVINE, CA— Two hotels in California have chosen to use cogeneration or CHP (combined heat and power) systems for their energy needs. The 211-room Atrium Hotel here in Irvine and the 185-room Radisson Hotel Santa Maria have both had systems up and running since October and are enjoying lower electricity bills as a result. The hotels are using newly introduced CHP systems by Capstone Turbine Corp., a manufacturer of microturbine energy systems. Called the C60-ICHP, the integrated, combined heat and power product is designed to offer advantages over the previous systems which involved ducting hot exhaust gas from the microturbine power system into a separate third-party heat exchanger. The CHP systems use both energy outputs of a microturbine— electricity and heat— to meet the power and thermal needs of a building. (A microturbine is a compact turbine generator that delivers electricity close to the point where it is needed. Each Capstone microturbine unit is about the size of a refrigerator and generates up to 60 kilowatts of electricity.) The microturbine exhaust is used to heat water for the building’s heating, boiler preheating and other thermal uses. The power generated onsite by each 60-kilowatt unit supplements the building’s electric needs. The total cost for the installation of three C60-ICHP units at the Atrium Hotel was close to $370,ooo, according to GM Sheri Blackwood, with the hotel getting some of that money back via utility company rebates. “We expect a return on the investment within 1.5 years,” Blackwood said. The decision to go with a cogeneration system at the Atrium Hotel was made in order to better control and save on electricity costs, Blackwell explained, and in its first full month of operation, the results were impressive. The hotel’s average monthly electric bill in the past was $26,000; during the first full month the cogeneration system was operating, the electricity bill dropped to $15,000. Savings on an annual basis will be considerable, Blackwell predicted, noting that the hotel’s annual cost for electricity is $317,000. “We expect a 30% decrease for the 12 months and that is a conservative estimate,” she said. In the future, excess hot water during times of low occupancy will be directed to heat the hotel’s pool, thus reducing electricity costs by cutting down on the use of the pool’s pump. “We could be down 40% overall on our electricity costs,” Blackwell said. The two C60-ICHP units at the Radisson Hotel Santa Maria cost a total of $263,000, according to GM Jean Luc Garon, who noted the property will receive a $90,000 rebate from its utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric. Since the cogeneration system became operational in October, “we’re saving $5,000 a month on our electric bill” which averages about $20,000 a month, Garon said. In addition to the cost savings, the Radisson was attracted to the cogeneration system for environmental reasons, Garon noted. “It is not as polluting as other types of systems,” he said. Blackwell agreed, and added that the system has some other advantages. “The microturbine is very quiet, it only produces a soft hum, and it has fewer parts than other systems which means less maintenance,” she said. Along with the cost savings and efficiency of the cogeneration system, Blackwell said the Atrium was attracted to the idea because of its interest in energy efficient programs. “We have changed the lights in the guestrooms and public spaces from incandescent to fluorescent which saves a considerable amount of energy. The incandescent lights were 75 watts and had a typical life of 500 to 600 hours; the fluorescent lights are 23 watts and last for over 1,000 hours,” she explained. “We also converted all of our exit signs to low-wattage LED,” which also produces significant savings on electricity as the signs are illuminated 24 hours a day, she said. “There really were no negative aspects of the installation of the cogeneration system,” Blackwell added.