Combined Heat and Power for the Florida Agriculture and Food Processing Industry
Known as the sunshine state, Florida’s climate makes it an ideal place for farmers to grow crops. This tropical climate also makes Florida more prone to hurricanes, and it’s been hit by more hurricanes and tropical storms than any other state. These natural disasters can cause (long-duration) power outages, spoiling food that needs to be kept cold and causing production losses in the food processing industry. Food and agriculture is one of 16 sectors that the U.S. Government defines as Critical Infrastructure. These sectors are considered “so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Southeast Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership (CHP TAP), based at the NC Clean Energy Technology Center at NC State University, partnered with the Florida Office of Energy in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to host an educational webinar titled “Combined Heat and Power for the Florida Agriculture and Food Processing Industry.” The webinar addressed the opportunity for agriculture and food processing companies to use combined heat and power (CHP), also known as co-generation technology, to not only reduce energy costs, but also provide resilient energy for this important sector of Florida’s economy.
Sean White, an analyst with the Florida Office of Energy, discussed several CHP installations already operating in agriculture and food processing facilities in the state of Florida, but indicated there are new opportunities to fit CHP to the needs of facilities today. White announced, “We are interested to learn how the state of Florida can encourage alternative technology like CHP and anaerobic digestion and help to lower costs.”
Art Samberg, Assistant Director of the U.S. DOE Southeast CHP TAP, shared how existing applications of CHP across the nation avoid more than 1.8 quadrillion Btus of fuel consumption and 241 million metric tons of carbon dioxide compared to the separate production of electric and thermal energy. But the potential exists for greater adoption of CHP. CHP captures waste heat produced by existing systems, such as boilers, to provide both electricity and thermal energy (or hot water) at overall efficiencies that are at least 50 percent greater than traditional production of thermal energy and utilization of electricity from the utility power grid. This greater level of efficiency offers opportunities to reduce energy costs while enhancing a facility’s energy resiliency. The CHP systems’ higher efficiency also translates to a reduction in GHG emissions, thus integrating well with corporate sustainability programs.
The Southeast CHP TAP has previously partnered with the Florida Office of Energy through a full-day CHP focused workshop in 2018. Since 2019, the University of Florida (UF) has partnered with the Southeast CHP TAP on 11 CHP screening assessments at wastewater treatment plants, chemical plants and food processing facilities in Florida. These screening assessments are provided at no cost and are offered at no obligation.
Currently, UF is coordinating with the Southeast CHP TAP to help train students, too. “We are working on training our students to perform full CHP Screening Assessments,” said Dr. S.A. Sherif, Director of UF’s Industrial Assessment Center which is an arm of the Southeast CHP TAP.
Critical facilities, from the agricultural industry to hospitals and shelters for refuge can rely on CHP to withstand long, multi-day outages to keep essential services operational. “One of the advantages of CHP, when it’s configured properly, is that a facility can be instantaneously switched off the power grid to its own CHP-based microgrid,” Samberg explained, “and when there’s an outage, you can continue operations without any disruption.”
The webinar also featured Elizabeth Bowen from the Southeast CHP TAP, as well as Florida Office of Energy’s Sean White, Dan Sutter from FloridaMakes, and 2G Energy’s Emily Robertson. You can watch the full webinar online.
Dan Sutter expanded upon the necessity for manufacturers to be disaster ready in Florida. FloridaMakes, which is a part of Florida’s Department of Commerce, has developed custom tools and services to help manufacturers identify and plan the impacts of future crises. “[These tools] give us opportunities to share best practices,” explained Sutter. “It makes a more resilient regional and state economy and gives us information sharing throughout the state on data and strategic planning activities.”
2G Energy is a global leader in complete, pre-engineered CHP solutions. Emily Roberson from 2G Energy touched on how CHP can make a facility more resilient. “It’s going to give your business or facility the ability to keep operating separate from the grid,” Robertson explained, “… It keeps the power on for you. It’s going to supply a continuous supply of thermal energy when you need it.” Having CHP as a source of back-up energy can benefit a client during outages while also continuously improving their energy efficiency.
If you’re interested in learning more about what CHP can do for you, please contact Elizabeth Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. DOE Southeast CHP TAP at NC State University’s NC Clean Energy Technology Center promotes and assists in transforming the market for CHP, waste heat to power and district energy technologies/concepts in the following eight southeast states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Southeast CHP TAP is part of a national network that provides fact-based, unbiased education and technical assistance to help energy end-users consider the benefits of combined heat and power.