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Browning Out:


As the summer heats up and the mercury rises, our homes, offices, and buildings rely more and more on power-hungry air conditioners.  While we would like to believe that the days of widespread brownouts are gone, the reality of crippling energy dependency should not be overlooked.  That said, energy production has advanced dramatically in recent years, offering metropolitan area co-ops and condos some options to alleviate energy usage concerns.

Many cooperatives have strategized and mitigated their energy needs through implementing co-generation technologies, through which many co-ops and condos are producing themselves some of the energy required for their building to function.  For these buildings, they only rely on their energy supplier (Con Edison for most) for the balance of what they cannot produce in house.  Some buildings are able to generate so much energy that they can sell the surplus back to their energy supplier and earn a profit.

Co-generation uses natural gas-fueled energy to create electricity and is also referred to as combined heat and power (“CHP”), as it delivers both electricity and hot water.  Environmental authorities find CHP technology to be efficient and clean.  Further, co-generation units are smaller, allowing them to recapture heat, which can be used to heat water and provide heat to buildings.  They result in lower energy bills and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  What does your building need in order to install a CHP system?  Three things:  a natural gas supply, a chimney or other exhaust source, and the unit itself.

The biggest drawback to CHP systems is the large upfront cost, which poses a challenge for cash-strapped buildings.  However, for buildings that can afford the cost, they will see their investment repaid in approximately 3 years, after which they will see significant savings in energy costs.

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