At night, base-loaded nuclear and coal fired power plants are producing electricity but electrical demand is low. This causes the price of electricity to be low. Therefore, during these times, there is an opportunity to purchase power cheaply, charge up a bank of batteries, and use or sell the power back to the utility during peak demand periods when the electricity price may be as much as three times more expensive.
In the spring 2016 semester, the IPRO 224 team explored the possibilities of using automobile engines as combined heat and power systems in residential situations. They found that there are conditions when having a generator and thermal- and electrical-storage can improve the efficiency of the system and save a homeowner money. The fall 2016 IPRO team will expand on this analysis and apply it to commercial businesses. There is some indication that even more money could be saved by such a system due to (1) demand charges, (2) the need for higher temperature process heat and (3) the scale of the operations. This IPRO team will build on the research done by the previous team and apply its technical and economic analysis to evaluating the prospects for commercial business applications.
It is envisioned that the team will be organized in three groups that will operate in a coordinated way, including offering ideas to other groups and building a consensus about project goals and tasks, as well as making decisions and resolving issues as they arise. The three groups are: a Thermal Group, an Electrical Group and a Build Group. The Thermal Group will investigate ways that thermal energy from an engine can be used in commercial businesses and ways in which it can be stored so that the engine only needs to be running when electricity is needed. The Electrical Group will look into how electrical power is billed and what the buy-back arrangements are when you produce your own power. It will look at ways in which electrical generation and storage can be used to reduce demand and consumption charges for commercial facilities. The Build Group will investigate matching the thermal and electrical needs of the commercial facilities to the size of the engine, the battery bank and the thermal energy storage. It will look at the distribution systems for delivering thermal and electrical energy to the facility and the interconnections required to sell power back to the grid.