Keele University uses CHP co-generation to meet energy targets

Project overview

Based in the heart of Staffordshire, Keele University is home to over 600 acres of campus and ranks as one of the best student communities in the UK. The site has over 3,000 bedrooms, which are owned and managed by the university, meaning student welfare and comfort is a vital factor in day to day running of the area.

As one of the many locations providing heating and hot water for the campus, the Horwood Energy Centre is a strategic site for the university. Covering over 700 rooms in the halls of residence, the student union, the library, medical centre and retails outlets in the main campus square, Horwood Energy Centre is a key factor in maintaining a well run site.

Previously powered by three 1MW gas boilers, the energy centre was proving inefficient, as faults within the system led to frequent downtime – presenting an operational risk for the university. In 2014, a feasibility study was conducted to determine the best course of action to improve the heating system and to lower carbon emissions.

Integrating CHP with an existing heating system

The feasibility study compiled by Futureserve, discounted biomass and ground source heat pumps due to the installation costs, but recommended a combined heat and power (CHP) unit as the most sustainable option. Putting together a performance specification of available units, they deemed Viessmann Vitobloc models as the best solution for the university, in addition to these being the cheapest option on the tender. With funding secured through the ‘Staffordshire Smart Energy City Deal’, the university forged ahead with the energy renovation.

Installed in August 2014, between term times, as to not disturb student living, the Vitobloc CHP unit is now the lead heat source in the energy centre. Delivering 140 kW electrical energy and 207 kW of thermal energy, the Vitobloc 200 deals with the main heat load during summer months and is then backed up by three floor standing gas condensing boilers during winter, including a 1.6 MW Viessmann Vitoplex 200 unit.

The Vitobloc CHP unit is operational 17 hours per day for 90% of the year, equating to 5,500 run hours per year. This means that heating, hot water and crucially electricity is generated and reliably provided from this energy centre, to 15% of the total Keele university campus site.

Results

The combination of CHP co-generation and gas is on course to save the university £34,000 per year in fuel bills, delivering a payback period of 9-10 years. The project also stands to save over 200,000 kg of CO² per year. Based on the success of the scheme, Keele university is now looking at installing further CHP units across the campus, hoping to cater for up to 25% of all energy requirements.

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