The United States Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is teaming with industry to deploy and independently monitor 5-kilowatt-electric (kWe) combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cell systems (FCSs) in light commercial buildings. Results of an independent evaluation of manufacturer-stated engineering, economic, and environmental performance of these CHP FCSs are presented here. An important contribution of this paper is the precise definition and development of these essential terms for quantifying distributed CHP generator energy use within buildings: (1) electricity and heat utilization, (2) electrical and heat recovery efficiencies, (3) in-use electrical and heat recovery efficiencies, (4) percentage usage of electricity, and (5) percent usage of recoverable heat. Key additional parameters evaluated include the average cost of the CHP FCSs per unit of power and per unit of energy, the change in greenhouse gas (GHG) and air pollution emissions with a switch from conventional power plants and furnaces to CHP FCSs, the change in GHG mitigation costs from the switch, and the change in human health costs from air pollution. CHP FCS heat utilization is expected to be under 100% at several installation sites; for six sites, during periods of minimum heating demand, the in-use CHP FCS heat recovery (HR) efficiency based on the higher heating value of natural gas is expected to be only 24.4%. From the power perspective, the average per-unit cost (PUC) of electrical power is estimated to span $15–19,000/kWe (depending on site-specific installation, fuel, and other costs), while the average PUC of electrical and HR power is $7,000–9,000/kW. Regarding energy, the average PUC of electrical energy is $0.38–$0.46/kilowatt-hour-electric, while the average PUC of electrical and HR energy is $0.18–$0.23/kWh. GHG emissions were estimated to decrease by one-third after replacing a conventional system with a CHP FCS. GHG mitigation costs were also proportional to changes in GHG emissions. Estimated human health costs from air pollution emissions decreased by a factor of 1000 with changing to CHP FCS. Reported for the first time here is the derivation of the PUCs of power and energy for a CHP device from both standard and management accounting (MA) perspectives. Results show that the average PUC of combined electrical and HR power is equal to the average PUC of electric power applying an MA approach, and also equal to the average PUC of HR power applying an MA approach. Similar relations hold for the average PUC of energy. Results presented here demonstrate the value of using the equations herein for economic analyses of CHP systems to represent the average PUC of electrical power, HR power, or both, and for energy.

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