Generating Your Own Electricity Cheaper

I do a lot of reading on climate and electricity generation.  Sometimes I come across stuff that surprises me.

One of those is a couple of blog posts / news articles that show that generating your own electricity may be way cheaper than getting it from the grid. That’s because NG is cheap and bulk electricity from power companies forced to subsidize renewables is not.

The data from this one is from the end of 2014. But a quick check shows costs would be similar today. The scale of generation is condo building sized using CHP natural gas — the hot water is used too.

If you have read my blog entitled, “What is the Best Kind of Generator For a Condominium Building” you will know that the cost of electricity from the grid is increasing and that the most cost effective way to generate our own electricity is by using a natural gas powered combined heat and power (CHP) generation system.

We will recall that when we use the waste heat from the generator for space heating or hot water heating in the building. We then get heat and electricity from the gas we burn in the generator. Using the combined heat and power (CHP) approach the efficiency of natural gas generators is boosted into the 70 to 90% range.Cost of Electricity 2006-2014

So, let’s do some calculations and see if it makes financial sense for a condominium to generate its own electricity.

If we know that the energy consumption rate of a typical 65kW gas generator is 900 Mega joules per hour and that the energy content of natural gas is typically about 40 Mega Joules per cubic metre, then the generator will consume about 900 Mega joules per hour divided by 40 Mega joules per cubic metre or 22.5 cubic metres of gas per hour. Since 35% of the energy is used to generate electricity and the generator total fuel efficiency is 85%, we can divide 35% by 85% to determine that 41% of the fuel is being used to generate the 65kW of electricity. So, if we multiply 22.5 cubic metres per hour total gas consumption by the 41% portion used to generate electricity, we find that the generator is consuming 22.5 times 41% or 9.23 cubic metres per hour to generate 65 kilowatt Hours (kWHr) of electricity.  If we use the 18.5¢ per cubic metre 2014 cost for natural gas we can determine that the generator is using 9.23 cubic metres per hour times 18.5¢ or about $1.71 per hour to generate 65 kWhr of electricity. We can determine the cost per kilowatt hour by dividing the hourly cost by amount of electricity or $1.71 per hour for gas divided by 65 kWHr electricity generated, which equals about 2.6¢ per kilowatt hour.   (These calculations are made on the basis that the other 59% of the fuel is being used to generate useful heat that will have the same value as the cost of the natural gas used to create the 50% heat.)

This 2.6¢ per kilowatt hour electricity cost will fluctuate with cost of natural gas and from generator to generator and we need to add about 1.2¢ per kilowatt hour for operation and maintenance, giving us a total cost of about 3.8¢ per kilowatt hour. It is easy to see that 3.8¢ will be much less than the current mid-peak cost of 11.4¢ per kilowatt hour from your local electrical utility.

This article is about a new grocery store, but the key paragraphs are here:

But the 19,000 square foot Sunripe is the centerpiece.

“It will have a little more of a modern look than the existing London and Sarnia stores” says Willemsen. With LED lighting and a natural gas generator Willemsen says the store will be able to go off the Provincial power grid.

“Natural gas is so inexpensive that we will be able to produce our own electricity cheaper than buying it from Hydro One”.

Willemsen says he is taking steps to make the new store as energy efficient as possible. Cooking equipment will be natural gas and the store will have a white roof to reflex the sun. Heat from refrigeration compressors will be reclaimed and directed back into the heating system.

CHP for greenhouses (and don’t forget the subsidies and incentives)

Then there are the sites touting micro-CHP that would be eligible for feed-in-tariffs in the UK.


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