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Undergraduate Students Perform Successful Cogeneration Study for University

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Instrumentation Division Technical Session 2

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Paper Authors


Herbert L. Hess University of Idaho

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Herb Hess is Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Idaho, where he teaches subjects in He received the PhD Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1993. His research and teaching interests are in power electronics, electric machines and drives, electrical power systems, and analog/mixed signal electronics. He has taught senior capstone design since 1985 at several universities. He was elected a Fellow of the ASEE in 2018.

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Lance Gerard Funke University of Idaho

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Lance Funke graduated from the University of Idaho with a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering and now works as an Energy Auditor for McKinstry.

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Chris Hoene

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Undergraduate Students Perform Successful Cogeneration Study for University

Heating and cooling the buildings at the University of ________ power generation is entirely from renewable resources. The primary source is biomass. The largest secondary source is hydroelectric, supplemented by wind and solar. Emergency backup is natural gas that can be fed directly to the university’s two boilers. In this process, too much of the steam provided for heating and for chilled water gets throttled down. Too much of its energy is lost. The university facilities director proposed adding a turbine to replace the throttling process, capturing some energy as electrical cogeneration in the process.

Four undergraduate students were assigned this project, to provide a pilot study to determine the feasibility of such an idea. The students began by studying the energy levels involved. It soon became apparent that there was substantial energy to be captured. It would save about 10% on the energy portion of the university’s electrical bill. The more significant result of the study is the finding that these proposed turbines would decrease the demand portion of the university’s electrical bill by more than 80%.

Therefore, the students proposed a set of alternatives. These were categorized into solutions involving two or three turbine generators to capture energy from the steam. An economic study showed that three turbines would capture more energy, as expected. Three turbines would also provide a degree of security to this resource and would enable substantial peak shaving. They would enable the electrical utility to more efficiently schedule energy to the surrounding urban area, providing a controllable draw of energy from each of the university’s two portals on the public utility electrical grid.

The students gained the confidence of turbine manufacturers. They were able to do far more in gaining information and design assistance than previous teams on similar projects. The result was a fully formed study ready to be presented to the university facilities engineers and, with little modification, to the public utility and state regulators. There are important legal issues involved as well because the university is forbidden by state law from generating more electrical energy than it consumes. Implementation of the students’ recommendations is expected before the ASEE Conference in 2019.

This paper will summarize how the students performed the study and what their results were. The paper will also assess the effectiveness of the methods employed in the undergraduate senior project course that provided the framework for the studies that were performed.

Hess, H. L., & Funke, L. G., & Hoene, C. (2019, June), Undergraduate Students Perform Successful Cogeneration Study for University Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33472

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