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Austin to be site of innovative Department of Energy pilot plant

Austin Energy site will utilize Combined Heat & Power technology

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 1, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas — The goal is lofty. The Department of Energy (DOE) wants to reduce by 46 gigawatts the demand on the nation's power grid by 2010. A significant tool in reaching this DOE goal is to increase the number of small power units for onsite or limited area generation, frequently referred to as Combined Heat & Power (CHP).

An important step in accomplishing this goal was achieved today with Burns & McDonnell's announcement that a site in Austin, Texas, owned by Austin Energy, will be the location for an innovative form of CHP. Construction will begin at the Austin site in September 2003 with completion expected in May 2004.

Read more about the Austin Energy CHP project >

For the project, a combustion turbine will be installed in conjunction with technologies that take waste heat from the turbine to produce heating, hot water and chilled water for cooling. The system will be integrated into an existing Austin Energy-owned central utility plant servicing a high-tech business park.

"Today, approximately two-thirds of the fuel energy used to generate electricity in the U.S. is wasted in the form of lost heat," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham.

In systems that productively use waste heat, overall energy efficiency levels can be raised to 70 percent or greater. The unit planned for Austin is expected to have efficiencies greater than 86 percent.

"DOE believes that by reducing the demand on the nation's electrical transmission grid and increasing the energy efficiency of buildings it will lead to reductions in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and will also improve indoor air quality. Onsite power also provide building owners with protection from power outages and rising electricity rates. By sponsoring research and development of new technologies, the DOE hopes to make these systems the preferred method of energy utilization in buildings by 2020," said Ed Mardiat, director of small power development for Burns & McDonnell.

"There is no one approach to solving the long-term energy needs of the U.S.," Mardiat said. "DOE's effort will go a long way toward making industrial and commercial power users more self-sufficient. Burns & McDonnell is proud to have been selected by DOE to take a leadership role in this effort.

"After you factor in security, reliability and reduced emissions, this system is a slam dunk — in some settings. Obviously, there will be a need for traditional power plants to serve much of the nation's needs for the foreseeable future."

This effort began when Burns & McDonnell, partnered with Solar Turbines Inc. and Broad USA, was awarded $3 million by DOE through Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as part of a cost-share contract to design and construct a prototype system. ORNL is managing similar arrangements with six additional efforts around the country. The Austin Energy project is the largest.

"These integrated systems will be less complex than traditional one-of-a-kind designs resulting in lower capital costs, shorter construction schedules, easy replication for multiple applications and control systems that can optimize facility energy use," said Jan Berry, program manager for ORNL.

"Austin Energy is pleased to join with DOE in deploying off the shelf technology in an innovative manner," said Cliff Braddock, director of energy business development for Austin Energy. "We believe that the low emissions and extraordinary high efficiencies of the integrated energy systems provide a positive response to our clean air challenge while allowing us to effectively meet our customers' complex energy needs."

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