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Energy Solutions Center Inc.

400 N. Capitol St., NW 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20001

Voice 202-824-7152
Fax 202-824-7096
E-mail lauerbach@escenter.org

 

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Tecogen, Inc. - Engine Driven Solutions for Today's Market

 An interview with Jeff Glick, Vice President Sales - Tecogen, Inc.

1. What are the primary markets for your technology today? 

Tecogen manufactures three different products which are geared towards customers who are looking to cut their energy consumption, become more competitive and reduce their green house gas emissions.  The products are:
 
1). TECOCHILL Natural Gas Engine-Driven Chillers 
2). Tecogen Natural Gas Combined Heat and Power  (CHP) modules with individual ranges from 60 kW up to 100 kW but are frequently installed in multiples up to 1.2 MW.  
3). A new product we have just introduced is a High Efficiency Natural Gas Engine-Driven Heat Pump which produces around 500,000 to 600,000 Btu/hr of hot water at twice the efficiency of a new high efficiency boiler.  
 
Typically our products are sold into the following applications; Hospitals, Multi-Family Residential, Light Industrial, Recreational and Educational sites. All of these sites have one thing in common, they have a large need for hot water (Chiller customers obviously have a need for chilled water with some having a need for both chilled and hot water).  The Tecogen products are not on any GSA schedule.
 

2. What new products or solutions are you bringing to the market this year? 

In 2013 Tecogen will be completing the roll-out of the Ilios high efficiency hot water heat pump and will also be incorporating our new Ultra emission system across all three product lines.  Currently the Ultra emission control system is available for installation on all of our CHP systems.  During 2013 it will be available on our TECOCHILL chillers and Ilios heat pump products.  With the Ultra emission control system, Tecogen is able to install our CHP units in the State of New Jersey without any requirements for permits to construct or permits to operate our units.  This really streamlines the installation process.  In other states such as California and Massachusetts, where the emission limits continue to become more stringent, the Ultra system has made the installation of stationary natural gas engine-driven equipment possible by meeting the ultra low emission limits. 
 

3. How can your product(s) impact the environment and help get more chiller equipment installed? 

As mentioned above, by installing chiller and CHP products with the latest emission controls our customers can be assured that they are installing the cleanest and greenest products on the market.  If we compare the CO2 output from an electric chiller’s operation to the CO2 output from a natural gas fired chiller you will see that the engine driven chiller produces between 9% and 59% less CO2.  The higher GHG (Green House Gas) reductions are with the built-in heat recovery being utilized.  In this comparison it is important to make sure we compare the source efficiency (fuel consumption) of each chiller technology and not the site efficiency.  By using the source efficiency of the electric chiller, we are looking at the amount of fuel used at the utility power plant to produce the electric power which is then transmitted to the electric chiller at a customer’s facility to operate the electric chiller.  This site versus source efficiency is an important distinction to make when comparing electric equipment to gas equipment. 
 

4. What are the competitive advantages of your product compared to other chiller technologies? 

Here is a list of the advantages an engine-driven chiller has over an electric chiller:
 
  • Significantly Lower Operating Costs
  • Reduce On-Peak Electric Demand
  • Heat Recovery Capability
  • Superior Part Load Efficiency
  • Avoid Electric Service Capacity Upgrades
  • Mission Critical Applications
  • Stand-by Generator Size Reduction
  • Back-up Cooling During Power Outages
 
There is another gas chiller technology which we compete against called direct fired absorption chillers. Over the past 20 years we have unfortunately been grouped together with this other technology.  The engine-driven chillers are around 2 to 2.5 times more efficient than this older chiller technology.  Often times we must differentiate our technology from absorption chillers.  We find that some gas company engineers must be reminded about the economic advantage of our technology over absorption chillers.
 

5. What misconceptions do you deal with when talking to potential customers about your product? 

The most frequent misconception is the lack of understanding of the potential savings which can be received by installing an engine-driven chiller.  Engineers and end users don’t realize how much it is costing to air condition a large facility when they are paying high demand based electric rates.  Also, if a site can utilize the free hot water byproduct of a CHP system, the potential savings are tremendous.  Here is a list of some other misconceptions we often run into: 
 
  • Noise Level (similar to electric chillers at full load) 
  • Vibration
  • Cooling Tower (minimal additional flow required for engine cooling)
  • Exhaust (temperature below 500°F)
 

6. Who is your direct customer – a property/homeowner, a contractor or a distributor, and why? 

Tecogen sells our chillers to a variety of customers.  Sometimes we sell directly to the end user.  Other times we will sell the unit to a mechanical contractor who has been awarded a contract to install the chiller system.  We very rarely sell our chillers to a distributor unless our representative / distributor is providing a complete turnkey package.
 

7. What are your strategies to communicate with and educate these customers? 

Tecogen tries a multi level approach to market and educate our potential customers.  Through a network of representatives, we try to meet with local engineers who are involved in mechanical HVAC work.  These meetings can be structured as lunch and learn presentations or simple group discussions about a current project.  The most effective selling however is directly to the end users.  Other than the mechanical engineer, the facility/ building  owner is the only other person who can influence the decision to go with a more expensive but more economical alternative.  Other efforts include attending local and national trade show events such as the AHR Expo next year in New York City, AEE shows such as the 2013 Globalcon event in Philadelphia and the 2012 World Energy Congress in Atlanta in October.  Tecogen is also a member of the Energy Solutions Center and attends the TMAF events to meet with gas utility employees. Unfortunately this is probably the number one barrier to getting wider acceptance of gas engine-driven technology.  Getting the word out to the engineering community is not simple for a product which isn’t the standard/ accepted technology.  Once an engineer has specified an electric chiller on a project, it is too late for Tecogen, our representative or the gas company to change the design to a more economical gas chiller.
  

8. What are the market barriers to greater deployment of your product? 

The number one impediment would be what I described above, education of owners and engineers.  If we could get more engineers interested in at least taking a look at the economic benefit of installing a gas engine-driven chiller, we would really increase the number of units installed.  We find that once an open-minded engineer sees the numbers, the percentage of adoption is increased greatly.  Unfortunately the misconceptions about noise, cost, and maintenance can prevent an engineer or building owner from even investigating the gas chiller options.   As the gas rates have decreased and electric rates have stayed essentially fixed, the engine driven chiller economics have steadily improved.  Increasing the exposure of this technology to owners and engineers would make a big difference in the adoption percentages.
 

9. What do you see as the greatest impact to success for your product? 

The economics of switching from the standard electric chiller technology to a natural gas chiller is really the most important factor to acceptance of the technology.  Therefore the gas rates and electric rates would be considered the most important factor to the success of greater acceptance of the engine-driven chillers.  Other factors such as environmental benefits and diversifying the site’s energy usage are important but don’t usually alone sway a building owner to make the important switch.  
 

10. What could gas utilities do to promote the deployment and acceptance of your product? 

Assist in the education of engineers and end users.  As discussed earlier, without getting the engineering community onboard, it will be difficult to get the technology wider acceptance.  Helping to inform customers of gas companies about the benefits would also be tremendously helpful.
 

11. What is the most unique application of your equipment?

Ice Rinks!  An ice rink in Great Neck, NY installed a TECOCHILL® CH-200x natural gas engine-driven chiller that provides 95 tons of cooling.  This chiller significantly reduced the ice making costs and peak demand charges AND also provided added efficiency and economy through heat recovered from the engine jacket coolant and the engine exhaust gases.  The hot water generated is truly a byproduct, without any additional fuel consumption being needed. Also installed at the rink is the TECOGEN® CM-75, a 75 kW natural gas-fired cogeneration module. Electricity produced by the cogeneration model offsets most of the facility’s existing power usage and also produces waste heat. This waste heat from both the natural gas chiller and natural gas cogeneration module is used throughout the sports complex to provide hot water for the locker rooms and heat for the offices.  The most unique use for the chiller's heat recovery is to provide the hot water for the Zamboni machine. Each time the Zamboni resurfaces the ice it deposits 160 gallons of hot water onto the ice surface. The hot water melts the top of the ice and freezes to form a fresh, smooth surface. By using the hot water byproduct from the chiller, the rink will be cutting its overall energy usage.
 
For a look at the Case Study visit the ESC website here.
 
Another example of Gas Fired Cooling is in the article "Keeping it Cool: Efficiency and cost savings fuel resurgence of natural gas air conditioning" in the 2011 issue of Energy Solutions for Commercial Buildings Magazine.