CHP finds favour in chilled operations

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

A containerised CHP installation, which is typically used in food factories (courtesy of Clarke Energy)
A containerised CHP installation, which is typically used in food factories (courtesy of Clarke Energy)

Related tags: Investment, Coffee, Chief operating officer

Manufacturers with a requirement to chill food should be looking at using combined heat and power (CHP) units to meet their needs now that the technology has improved and the economics are more favourable, a provider of ‘build, own and operate’ systems has claimed.

According to BasePower’s chief operating officer and business development director George Fowkes, the obstacles to installing CHP of the past, notably the “hidden costs in electricity”​ surrounding transmission, distribution, and renewables charges, etc which could be avoided by using CHP were lower.

“They're now higher and growing, which is why recent electricity price falls have been disappointing compared with those of gas,"​ said Fowke

“Meanwhile, the performance of reciprocating CHP engines and associated boilers has kept creeping up and is now really good. And the efficiency and reliability of absorption chillers have now got to the point where, if you have a lot of chilling but don't use much heat, you can make CHP work for you too.”

Adopted model

Under the model adopted by BasePower, which currently works with companies in the dairy, meat, drinks and ready meals sectors, it owns the CHP asset and signs up the customer for a set number of years, which enables it to “pay”​ the capital invested in building the plant.

“The reason for this is that it aligns the interests of the two parties in a way that is very difficult in any other way,”​ said Fowkes. “Basically, the more electricity and heat that we produce, the more money that we make. And the more stuff that [the customer] buys based on a guaranteed saving the more money they save.”

BasePower, which has been operating for two years, was attracted to the CHP model because it offered “sustainability without subsidy”​, said Fowkes.

CHP schemes

Across the UK food and drink sector, companies already operating CHP schemes include the likes of APS Salads, Arla, Princes, Mondelēz’s Banbury coffee plant, R&R Ice Cream and Tangerine Confectionery.

Fowkes added that what had also inhibited take-up of CHP in the past had been the absence of CHP designers/suppliers offering packages that met the expectations of financial directors in terms of worthwhile savings and also didn't involve excessive contractual commitment.

At the same time, engineers working in food plants hadn’t wanted to take on the extra operational risk of installing CHP. And environmental managers weren't always totally convinced about the green merits.

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