For long-time listeners, and even new listeners that have gobbled up past episodes including Session 3 with New Belgium Brewing’s Jenn Vervier, you know that I’m a big fan of combined heat and power (CHP). Last week, I attended the International District Energy Association’s Campus Energy Conference here in Denver. It was a terrific conference, and water played an important role.

In fact, three breakout sessions focused on water efficiency within district energy systems (even more if you count the pre-conference workshops). One of the presenters focused specifically on water efficiency in CHP plants.

Scott West of Jacobs discussed Exergy and Water Efficiency in Combined Heat and Power Plants: UT Austin vs. ERCOT. West determined that during the period reviewed (December 2013-November 2014), the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT Austin) CHP plant used less water in every single month than had that same amount of electricity been taken through the ERCOT grid.

West’s calculations show that the water consumption spread between UT Austin’s CHP plant and the ERCOT generation is significant from a water consumption standpoint. For the given amount of energy, UT Austin consumed 87.8 million gallons of water contrasted with ERCOT’s consumption of 133.4 million gallons of water. That’s a difference of over 37 million gallons saved by using CHP for that amount of energy.

CHP presents a great opportunity for wastewater treatment plants, colleges and universities, hospitals, hotels, office and apartment buildings and complexes, district energy systems, airports, and a plethora of industrial applications, such as chemicals, paper, refining, food processing (see New Belgium Brewing and my talk with Jenn Vervier linked above) and metals manufacturing operations. The Department of Energy’s Southwest CHP Technical Assistance Partnership has lots of great resources on CHP on its website.

While people know CHP predominantly for its energy efficiency potential, let’s not forget that it can save water, too!