By Tina Perinotto
29 April 2011 – More than 200 people attended a “flicking of the switch” ceremony on Thursday morning at Investa’s Coca-Cola Place in North Sydney to send gas fired trigeneration energy into the Sydney grid.
The cleaner, lower emissions energy, was “connected” to another Investa building, Deutsche Bank Place at 126 Philip Street, across the harbour at 126 Phillip Street in the Sydney CBD.
The number and range of dignitaries in attendance showed the complexity of the task.
There was NSW minister for resources and energy Chris Hartcher, chairman and chief executive officer of Investa Property Group Scott McDonald, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, North Sydney Lord Mayor Genia McCaffery, Origin executive general manger energy markets Frank Calabria and deputy chief executive climate change policy and programs with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Simon Smith.
According to Investa, the six-star Green Star Coca-Cola Place, which started life as The Ark, and Deutsche Bank Place between them can now claim about 1000 tonnes of carbon dioxide reductions a year.
Trigen energy is about one third the emissions of coal fired power and about 80 per cent efficient in the use of fuel compared with about 30-40 per cent for coal fired power. It has been used for many years but connecting it to the main grid is the next leap to a lower carbon future.
Strategically, said Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, the event was a powerful first step in the council’s grand plan to see the whole of the CBD connected to a lower emissions trigen grid.
“This is retrofitting the city economically. Eighty per cent of our emissions are in the city and these are predominantly from commercial buildings,” Ms Moore said.
The council expects this year to appoint a supplier for the first trigen network over a cluster of the its own commercial buildings (See our recent article on this).
Ms Moore said 12 companies controlled about 60 per cent of office accommodation in the City of Sydney, “so the uptake of commercially-viable green technologies can make a real impact on emissions for this sector. ”
Investa’s Mr McDonald said the challenge of Coca-Cola Place was how to operate the plant efficiently. Trigen plants need to run at full capacity at all times to be efficient, while energy demands fluctuate and may sometimes require the plants to be switched off.
The North Sydney building was “so efficient that it cannot take the capacity that comes out of this plant.” Mr McDonald said. “It generates a lot of power and it just can’t handle it, so the challenge is, how do we operate this plant and do it in an efficient way?”
Not easily it seems. The solution needed to cross political jurisdictions [Sydney and North Sydney councils], it needed an electricity retailer (Origin) and a plant operator (Cogent) and “it had to get the cooperation of someone who operates the grid [Ausgrid, formerly EnergyAustralia] and they’re not used to taking these kind of power loads and distributing then and then we had to find a building to take the excess power.”
In the end, said Mr McDonald, “everything came together to create an opportunity,” that blended a private and a public opportunity.
For Investa there is the additional value of rental income from the plant leased to Cogent.
Mr MacDonald said the initiative meant that the company was leasing space to an operator which could generate power,
as well as manage the balance of demand and supply.
Two Energy Service Agreements allow Investa to purchase electricity, hot water and chilled water fromCogent, as well as top-up, peak and off-peak electricity for both sites.
Origin’s Mr Calabria said his company was paving the way for “more intelligent energy systems” and this was a first step.
“This is an exciting time for Origin. We’ve rapidly increased our presence in NSW and we are the largest retailer in Australia,” he said.
With the acquisition of Cogent a few years ago, the energy that could be supplied could also be less carbon intensive, and part of the retailer’s drive to “finding sustainable solutions for our large customer base in commercial buildings and precincts.”
The benefit of trigen will be to lower carbon emissions, and lower network demand, while increasing efficiency and security, Mr Calabria said.
“It produces electricity for the customer and then heating and cooling to buildings. All of these three things are not new concepts but we are talking today about how to share that across more than one building.”
The way Mr Calabria described the connection between the two buildings was that Origin had “overlaid a private network on top of the Austgrid network to manage the excess capacity fro this plant to be shared.”
The system relies on constant monitoring of energy fed into the grid, with emissions savings benefits from the North Sydney building transferred directly to the Deutsche Bank Place building.
Craig Roussac, general manager of sustainability, safety and environment at Investa said: “Responsible building operators strive to use as little energy as possible.
“This agreement proves we can have our cake and eat it too. We can power a super-efficient building with lower emissions electricity, while at the same time heating and cooling it with the waste heat that would normally go up a coal-fired power station’s smoke stack. In addition, further benefits flow from the ability to export excess electricity to the grid.”
The City of Sydney said that its trigeneration master plan found that the carbon abatement cost of trigeneration is about four times cheaper than other technologies such as coal fired power stations with carbon capture and sequestration or widespread installation of household solar photovoltaics.
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