LOS ANGELES, CA — With energy efficiency playing an increasingly important role in alleviating the state's ongoing energy crisis, Southern California Gas Co. (SCG) earlier this month unveiled plans to showcase a new approach to saving energy that combines on-site power generation with an energy-efficient cooling and heating system.

At a ground-breaking ceremony for a new $1.8 million central energy plant at its Pico Rivera facility, SCG officials said the new plant will save the company $250,000 a year in energy costs through the use of a micro-turbine that generates 75 kilowatts (kW) of electricity and a “super-efficient” natural gas absorption chiller that provides hot water for space heating and chilled water for cooling.

The central energy plant represents the first energy system in the western United States that will receive co-funding from a new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program promoting energy efficiency. The new system is expected to be operational by October 2001.

“At [Southern California Gas], we take energy efficiency and conservation seriously, and encourage our customers to do the same,” said Edwin A. Guiles, chairman of SCG. “Like all businesses, we are looking at ways to reduce our costs to heat and cool our facilities.

“Through the use of new and exciting natural gas technologies, we will not only significantly reduce our costs, but the electricity we don’t pull off the grid will be available for others to use.”

This year alone, SCG said it has reduced the amount of electricity used in its facilities by more than 12% over last year.

Although the absorption chiller and the micro-turbine offer significant cost savings and environmental advantages on their own, the new DOE program underlines how these two units produce greater efficiencies by working together, Guiles said.

The gas-fired Honeywell micro-turbine, which needs cool inlet air to run at its top efficiency, will receive cool air throughout the year from the absorption chiller. The micro-turbine produces few emissions.

The Broad 330-ton absorption chiller will be partially driven by the waste heat from the micro-turbine. The resulting system will be very high in overall efficiency, reduce electric power needs on hot days, and be low in emissions, said SCG.

According to the utility, the chiller will be the first in California manufactured by a division of Broad Air Conditioning, considered one of the world’s largest manufacturer of gas-absorption air conditioning. Gas-fired absorbers do not use CFCs. The new chiller will replace an electric unit that needed a costly change to a new refrigerant that doesn’t contain CFCs.

The central energy plant will replace a 25-year-old system of chiller units, cooling towers, and boilers that now provide heating and cooling at three buildings at the Pico Rivera site, which houses the company’s engineering analysis center, meter repair shop, and other diversified functions.

Neilsen-Dillingham Builders will construct the project, which was designed by a team that included personnel from Sempra Energy, SCG, Loring-Cruz, and Donn C. Gilmore and Associates.

SCG said the DOE plans to showcase this project, so others can learn the potential for using an integrated on-site power generation, heating, and cooling approach.

Publication date: 07/09/2001