ciency when new electric capacity is
added to our energy grid.
A theme that was prevalent throughout
the many speeches at this year’s conference
was that district energy and CHP support
energy conservation, reduce carbon footprint
and are good for the environment. Generating electricity in a CHP plant attracts a lot
of attention with its complex machinery,
computerized controls and impressive
stature. However, none of the benefits of
CHP are realized if the heat available after
electricity generation has no place to go.
I believe it is time to reach out
to cities and city planners.
Our industry must accept the challenge
of aggregating thermal energy demands
through piping distribution systems that
allow the benefits of CHP to become a
reality. For that reason, we must be challenged to introduce cities, colleges, hospital
complexes, government buildings, corporate
campuses and even residential developments
to the idea of district energy and help them
develop a district energy infrastructure for
the next 100 years.
A task equal to development of piping
networks is the interface between alternative
fuels and CHP production plants. I see a
challenge in the next 100 years in combining
alternative fuel sources, efficient conversion
and improved environmental stewardship.
As our country reduces dependence on
imported fuels, we must also realize that
natural gas has a limited availability. Solid
fuel sources like coal, municipal solid waste
and biomass should rightly play a role in
our energy future, and district energy can
increase alternative fuel energy efficiency
IDEA must reach out to the industries
that can use solid fuels and partner with
them for the sake of efficiency and environmental benefits. It is likely that nuclear
energy will also play a greater role in our
energy future. Simple nuclear-based district
energy systems have been explored in Europe
and should be reconsidered as we move
forward to greater use of nuclear in this
country. Initial efforts to develop a small,
modular nuclear energy electric generation
plant are already under way, and what better
complement to these efforts than district
energy systems, which make their use
The past 100 years saw the use of
fuel-burning equipment move farther and
farther from urban centers, thus reducing
fuel utilization efficiency to the 33 percent
figure often quoted. As the quest for energy
efficiency and alternative fuels proceeds,
IDEA and our industry can support these
efforts through development and operation
of efficient thermal networks that increase
energy efficiency and free our communities
from dependence on a single fuel source.
The next 100 years hold many challenges
and opportunities for our industry.
David W. Wade, PE, is president of RDA Engineering Inc.
in Atlanta and has been an
IDEA member for more than
25 years. He has served on
IDEA's board and is a past
chair of ASHRAE's national
technical committees dealing
with building steam and hot water systems and
district heating and cooling. Wade may be
reached at email@example.com.