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For immediate release: September 24, 2003
Media Contact: Percy Della - 916-654-4989

Virtual Network to Help Increase Electricity Yield from
Combined Heat and Power Systems

Sacramento - The California Energy Commission has been awarded a grant of $300,000 by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a virtual network aimed at increasing the electricity yield from combined heat and power (CHP) systems in the Southwest region and the rest of the nation.

The grant from the DOE's State Energy Program will be utilized by the Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program to fund the Southwest Combined Heat and Power Regional Application Center (SWAC) network.

The virtual network will be a joint undertaking of three educational institutions: the Energy and Resources Group Center for Interdisciplinary Distributed Energy Research at the University of California Berkeley, the Advanced Power and Energy Program at UC Irvine and the Industrial Assessment Center at San Diego State University.

As prime PIER contractor, UC Berkeley will take the lead, but UC Irvine will maintain the virtual network. The web site will serve as a one-stop center to support the DOE's goal of doubling the electricity input of CHP systems in the U.S. to 92 gigawatts by 2010. (A gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts. A megawatt is enough power for 750 to 1,000 California homes.)

California has approximately 700 installed CHP systems with an electrical capacity of 6,500 megawatts, mostly from large industrial systems. There is a potential yield of another 12,000 megawatts from the commercial and industrial sectors in the state.

CHP systems are technologies employed at facilities to produce electricity from a fuel such as natural gas. Heat is created in the production of electricity. Instead of venting the heat into the air, facilities such as pulp and paper mills, refineries, food processing plants, and supermarkets put the heat to good use for water heating, space cooling and refrigeration. A CHP system was recently installed at a Raley's Supermarket in Fairfield. The system will provide most of the facility's electrical needs and the heat will refrigerate perishables through the use of an absorption chiller.

As envisioned by the Energy Commission and the DOE, the virtual network will be a major force in doubling the output of CHP installations in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and the Pacific territories. The network will post research on CHP systems, examine regulatory policy, facilitate information exchange, education, and technical assistance to technology users. Services will also include energy audits and assessments of CHP systems in the region.

The Commission's PIER Program supports public interest energy research, development and demonstration that will help improve the quality of life for Californians by bringing environmentally safe, affordable and reliable energy services and products to the marketplace.

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