The Combined Cooling, Heating, and Power (CCHP) systems have been widely recognized as a key alternative for thermal and electric energy generation because of the outstanding energy efficiency, reduced environmental emissions, and relative independence from centralized power grids. Nevertheless, the total energy cost of CCHP systems can be highly dependent on the operation of individual components and load balancing. The latter refers to the process of fulfilling the thermal and electrical demand by partitioning or “balancing” the energy requirement between the available sources of energy supply. The energy cost can be optimized through an energy dispatch algorithm which provides operational/control signals for the optimal operation of the equipment. The algorithm provides optimal solutions on decisions regarding generating power locally or buying power from the grid. This paper presents an initial study on developing an optimal energy dispatch algorithm that minimizes the cost of energy (i.e., cost of electricity from the grid and cost of natural gas into the engine and boiler) based on energy efficiency constrains for each component. A deterministic network flow model of a typical CCHP system is developed as part of the algorithm. The advantage of using a network flow model is that the power flows and efficiency constraints throughout the CCHP components can be readily visualized to facilitate the interpretation of the results. A linear programming formulation of the network flow model is presented. In the algorithm, the inputs include the cost of the electricity and fuel and the constraints include the cooling, heating, and electric load demands and the efficiencies of the CCHP components. This algorithm has been used in simulations of several case studies on the operation of an existing micro-CHP system. Several scenarios with different operational conditions are presented in the paper to demonstrate the economical advantages resulting from optimal operation.

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