The system is a co-generation system, which generates both electricity and useful heat. The system consists of four, 60 kW microturbines (for a total capacity of 240 kW), which are connected to a chiller/heater unit. In the winter, the unit produces electricity, and the heat that the units produce, which would normally have been wasted up the stack, is used for the space heating of campus buildings. In the summer, the waste heat is fed to the chiller unit, which uses it to pre-chill water before it is fed to the campus’ main chiller (the chilled water is used for air-conditioning on campus).
Because the waste heat from the system is used, the unit is about 65% efficient (for comparison, the average coal-fired power plant is only about 30% efficient). In addition, about 10% of power generated at a centralized power station is lost in transmission and distribution. Because the microturbine generates electricity on-campus, transmission and distribution losses are kept to a minimum, further raising the efficiency of the unit.
The system was installed in 2005, and is the first installation of this system in the world.