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Lessons Project Management

retrofits, energy efficiency

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is,

When Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., initiated plans in 2005 to install the combined heat and power, or CHP, system and build a 10,000-square-foot Central Utility Facility to house the technology, maintenance and engineering managers knew they were undertaking an immense challenge.

In the end, the project delivered the intended energy efficiency benefits to the organization. Of all the benefits CHP is designed to deliver to facilities, the two biggest are cost savings and reliability, two issues that resonate with managers in any discussion of power management.

"The savings and the reliability — not being married to the grid in the event of an emergency," says Bill Romatzick, the university's manager of energy controls & plant systems. "For a hospital, a university, or anywhere where uptime is critical, I think that's a big selling feature."

The project also provided lessons that have improved the efficiency of the department and personnel involved.

For example, during construction of the facility, communication with occupants, staff, and the utility company was paramount.

"Whenever we shut down, we have to notify the utility ahead of time," Romatzick says. "For the whole process, the utility dictates your interconnection agreement, how you're going to connect to their grid, what safety measures have to be in place, and the cleanliness of the electricity you're generating. They're the final say."

Romatzick offers a few other lessons learned:

First, building size. "If you're going to build the building or find a location for the CHP system, make sure that it's large enough," he says. "Our facility is a little tight, as far as maintenance goes."

Next, additional equipment. "There is additional equipment you have to buy," he says. "We also have to increase gas pressure. We don't have a high-pressure gas main in the area, and turbines require 200 pounds of gas to operate. We had to install a 250-horsepower gas compressor to increase the pressure of the gas on site."

Finally, the nature of operations. "You have to have a place that you can year-round use that heating source," he says. "That's why it's so popular in hospitals and universities where you have a heavy air-conditioning load."

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