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Packaged CHP Basics

Combined heat and power (CHP) systems are a highly efficient form of distributed generation, typically designed to power a single industrial plant, large building, campus, or group of facilities. CHP lowers energy costs, enhances energy resilience and reduces overall emissions for the user, while improving grid reliability, energy security and economic competitiveness for the surrounding community.

In the past, CHP installations required customized engineering and design with systems constructed at the user site. This practice, known as “design-build,” is still commonly employed, especially for large installations with unique thermal requirements. However, as CHP technologies have become more established, many manufacturers have started producing standardized packaged CHP systems that eliminate many of the site-specific engineering requirements.

Packaged CHP System Design

Packaged CHP System Design
*Figure adapted from EPA’s Catalog of CHP Technologies Packaged CHP Systems Chapter.

Packaged CHP systems can incorporate a variety of CHP technologies, including reciprocating engines, microturbines, combustion turbines and fuel cells. Instead of being defined by the type of prime mover, packaged systems are defined by their pre-installed components and turn-key functionality. Manufacturers design and build standardized systems that can be used in many different settings, rather than designing and engineering a new system for each location. These units are tested and pre-assembled, arriving skid-mounted or containerized with standard installation requirements. Most containerized or single packaged CHP system offerings range from 10 kW – 3 MW. Modular pre-engineered systems are available in larger sizes. The eCatalog includes packaged systems up to 7.5 MW.

Typical Packaged CHP Components

Typical Packaged CHP Components

Packaged CHP Benefits

Packaged CHP can provide a number of benefits in addition to the benefits that traditional CHP can provide. One of the biggest advantages of packaged CHP is the reduced cost and effort required for installation. With lower installation, engineering costs and shorter project timelines, packaged systems can provide a higher return on investment for small sites. The economic advantage for smaller generators, enhanced resilience offered by distributed energy resources, coupled with a more efficient installation process, is leading to an expansion of the U.S. CHP market. Since packaged CHP systems are designed, assembled, and tested prior to installation, costs can be significantly reduced compared to design-build systems.

Standardized CHP packages can be easily installed in a variety of commercial and institutional applications with minimal on-site engineering required. Most manufacturers and developers of packaged systems also offer standardized maintenance contracts, which can help customers who may not have qualified staff on-site to operate and maintain the system. The standardization of packaged CHP systems and maintenance contracts reduces perceived risk for end-users and can lead to increased replicability of CHP in the commercial and institutional sectors.


More Information

CHP Technology Fact Sheet Series provides details on various types of CHP technologies and a comparison of operating characteristics for typical systems. This series provides information on cost, performance, emissions, and other details about CHP technologies and suitability for different application types. Overview of CHP Technologies: Reciprocating Engines, Microturbines, Gas Turbines, Fuel Cells, Steam Turbines and Absorption Chillers.
CHP Project Profiles In this database, more than 200 compiled by DOE's CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships (TAPs) can be searched by a variety of characteristics, including: State, CHP TAP, market sector, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code, system size, technology/prime mover, fuel type, thermal energy use and year installed.
CHP Installation Database is a data collection effort sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and maintained by ICF Inc. The database contains a comprehensive listing of combined heat and power installations throughout the country includes information on site name, location, application, CHP electric, technology, fuel type and year installed.
CHP Policy and Program Profile Database In this series of policy and program profiles, the CHP TAPs describe important policy issues or programs impacting the deployment of CHP systems in their regions. Topic areas include: Air Permitting, Financing, Interconnection Standards, Portfolio Standards, Resilience Policies, Standby Rates, State Energy Planning, State/Local Incentive Programs, and Utility Incentive Programs.
CHP State Fact Sheets This fact sheet series provides a general overview of the state of combined heat and power (CHP) technologies in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including data on current installations, technical potential, and economics for CHP. The fact sheets are grouped by the geographic areas served by the ten CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships (CHP TAPs).
Packaged CHP Accelerator Standardized, packaged CHP systems can overcome numerous barriers to CHP installations in industrial, commercial, institutional, multifamily, and government applications by reducing design errors, limiting uncertainty about projected performance, shortening project install time, streamlining permitting, and reducing the overall cost. Accelerator Partners will validate that installation times and total project costs for pre-engineered, technically-validated packaged CHP systems can be reduced by 20% or more. Partners will also evaluate the integration of new technologies with packaged CHP systems and identify R&D challenges and opportunities around packaged CHP and related technologies.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP) for Resiliency Accelerator worked to support and expand the consideration of CHP solutions to keep critical infrastructure operational every day and night regardless of external events. As a collaborative effort with states, communities, utilities, and other stakeholders, Partners examined the perceptions of CHP among resiliency planners, identified gaps in current technologies or information relative to resiliency needs, and developed plans for communities to capitalize on CHP’s strengths as a reliable, high-efficiency, lower-emissions electricity and heating/cooling source for critical infrastructure.

For more information on CHP, visit the DOE CHP Deployment Program website.