It has happened to us all. We open our electricity bill and are shocked by the fact that our bill has gone up despite all of our efforts to reduce electricity usage. Why is that? It is because the price of electricity is going up faster than we are reducing our electricity consumption.
We have taken steps like installing Energy Star Appliances, converting to energy efficient lighting and lowering our thermostat without seeing our electricity cost go down. These passive steps to reduce our electricity costs are necessary and cost effective, but to deal with the rising cost of electricity, we need a more effective strategy.
We need a cheaper source of electricity than our electrical utility. But, where else could we get electricity? Well, it turns out many of us have already done just that. We have installed solar panels, wind turbines and natural gas powered generators to generate our own electricity.
Hundreds of home owners in the Greater Toronto Area have already installed solar panels. Is this, or any type of generator, practical for condominiums? Let’s take a look at the options:
- Solar panels
The solar power option is environmentally friendly and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) will buy this electricity from you at a subsidized rate through the Feed-in Tariff program. Many homeowners and businesses are already taking advantage of this option. The solar panels are typically roof mounted.Sadly, this option is not a good option for high rise condominiums, because there is not enough space on the roof of a high rise condominium building to mount the number of solar panels required to generate enough electricity for the building. However, for low rise buildings with relatively large roofs, solar power is on option that is becoming cost effective. Solar power is becoming more cost effective as the cost of solar panels goes down while the cost of electricity is going up. Here is a picture of solar panels mounted on the roofs of a low rise building complex.
- Wind Turbines
Electricity from wind generators is also subsidized by the OPA and there are many wind generators in Ontario. However, wind generators are not practical for condominiums in the GTA where average wind speeds are too low.
- Natural Gas Generators
Many Ontario condominiums already use natural gas or diesel generators for emergency back-up power. Diesel engines are not allowed to be run on a regular basis, because of the pollution caused by burning the diesel fuel. But, natural gas generators emit almost no pollution and are allowed to be used to displace electricity that would otherwise be supplied from the grid.
So, you can see that a practical option for condominiums to reduce their electricity cost is to use a natural gas generator to generate some or all of their own electricity. There are a number of strategies for reducing electricity consumption using gas generators, here are a few:
- Load Displacement
This strategy uses a gas generator to generate part of the electricity required by the building. The electricity bill is reduced by the amount of electrical energy and peak load for the month is reduced. For example, a 100kilowatt generator running continuously would reduce the electricity bill by about $8,000 per month.
- Peak Shaving
In this strategy the generator is only run about 8 hours a day, during times of peak load. The electricity bill is not reduced as much as if the generator is running continuously, but the fuel consumed by the generator reduced to 1/3 of the amount that it would be if the generator is run continuously. For example, a 100kilowatt generator running 8 hours per day would reduce the electricity bill by about $3,000 per month.
- Combine Heat and Power (CHP)
This strategy yields the highest savings. The waste heat from the generator is used to provide heat for hot water and/or space heating . So, a 100kW CHP system would reduce the electricity bill by about $8,000 per month, as well as reduce the amount of natural gas or other fuel required to heat the building. Here is a picture of a natural gas CHP system.
If you would like to investigate energy cost savings further, contact us at 416 410-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Glenn Allen PhD, P.Eng
Energy and Sustainability
Rikos Engineering Limited