Cleaver-Brooks HRSGs Keep Power and Heat Running at NYU Despite Hurricane Sandy

Case Study

  • Company: New York University
  • Industry: Education
  • Location: New York, New York
  • Profile: New York University invested in a co-generation plant to reduce its facility costs and carbon footprint.
  • Challenge: Hurricane Sandy caused power outages throughout New York City, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without heat or electricity.
  • Solution: Due to its co-gen plant, NYU was able to go off the main grid and operate in “island mode.”
  • Results: NYU maintained power, heat and hot water to 59 affected buildings, which kept students safe. In addition, the co-gen system saves the university $5 to $8 million annually in energy-related costs.

While most of New York City was without power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, buildings at New York University (NYU) enjoyed warmth and electricity provided by the university’s new co-generation (co-gen) plant. During the hurricane, NYU was able to isolate itself from the main grid and operate in “island mode,” maintaining power, heat and hot water for 22 buildings on the main campus and 37 other connected facilities.

Integral to NYU’s co-gen plant are two Cleaver-Brooks Max-Fire® Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSGs), which were installed in 2008 to recover heat from the exhaust flow of combustion gas turbines. These HRSGs harness energy wasted in the combustion process when vented directly to the atmosphere. The natural gas-fired co-gen plant, completed in January 2011, is part of NYU’s sustainability plan. Today the university’s co-gen system operates at close to 90 percent efficiency.

According to Jason Jacobi, sales manager for the Engineered Boiler Systems division of Cleaver-Brooks, NYU’s private co-gen installation is somewhat unique in the city of New York. 

“NYU is fortunate to have invested in such a system,” said Jacobi. “Originally conceived to reduce the university’s carbon footprint while saving money, it now has proven itself to be especially beneficial in the areas of safety and reliability, as evidenced by its performance during this crisis. Our hearts truly go out to the victims of this horrific storm who were left without heat and power.” 

NYU’s co-gen process begins with natural gas fueling twin high-tech gas turbines. The rotation of the turbines is used to generate 11 megawatts of electricity.  As the turbines work, hot exhaust is directed to the Cleaver-Brooks HRSGs, which boil water into 600 psig steam that is directed to a steam turbine electrical generator, producing an additional 2.4 megawatts of electricity. After the steam has passed through the steam turbine generator, it is used to make hot water for the campus in two high-temperature heat exchangers, and also is used to operate a turbine-driven chiller to produce cold water for air conditioning. 

According to NYU, the co-gen system is saving the university between $5 million and $8 million in energy-related costs annually compared to its former system. In addition, because of the plant’s efficiency, greenhouse gases have been reduced by 5,000 tons annually, and there are 68 percent fewer pollutants emitted compared to meeting the university’s needs with conventionally produced energy.  

Jacobi added, “Other institutions should follow NYU’s lead and investigate co-gen plants of their own due to their many benefits, including cost savings and emissions reduction as well as safety and reliability during a natural disaster.”