Vectren subsidiary building roughly 12-MW CHP project for NASA center

Energy Systems Group (ESG), a leading energy services provider and wholly owned subsidiary of Vectren Corp. (NYSE:VVC), has begun construction of a combined heat and power (CHP) plant at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.

The CHP plant is included in the scope of an energy savings performance contract (ESPC) awarded to ESG in August 2015 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The ESPC project’s two energy conservation measures, a CHP plant and chilled water plant improvements, will save approximately $141m over a 22-year operating term, ESG said in a March 8 news release.

The CHP plant will produce 11.9 MW of electricity via two 5.7-MW combustion turbines and one 500-KW turbine. Using waste heat from the combustion turbines, two heat recovery steam generators (HRSG) will produce 50,000 pounds per hour of high pressure steam.

The steam will be simultaneously used for heating and to generate chilled water via existing steam turbine-driven chillers. Conventional utility power generation systems typically operate at 35% to 45% efficiency. Using the waste heat generated by the NASA JSC CHP plant for both cooling and heating allows for overall tri-generation thermal efficiencies in excess of 85%.

Re-commissioning of the chilled water system will result in still more efficiencies. ESG will provide operations and maintenance, repair and replacement and savings guarantees for the term of the contract, the company said in a news release.

Established in 1961 as the Mission Control Center for NASA’s U.S. Human Space Flight Program, JSC is one of NASA’s largest research and development centers, occupying 1,620 acres southeast of downtown Houston. JSC serves as NASA’s lead for the International Space Station (ISS) and is home to the Orion Spacecraft, the NASA Astronaut Corps, and other advanced human exploration projects.

The CHP facility will operate in parallel with the utility, meeting nearly 70% of JSC’s electric requirements, all of JSC’s steam requirements, and roughly half of JSC’s chilled water requirements. Capable of operating as an islanded micro-grid, the CHP plant will provide energy for critical mission operations such as ISS Mission Control and the Orion program in the event of a utility power disruption. This represents a new way of thinking about utilities at JSC. As the JSC center changes, the new CHP system, the first ever for NASA, will allow JSC to adapt to new programs, new requirements, and new ways of being flexible.

As part of an interagency collaboration, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded JSC a $1m grant to provide direct funding for the project and assisted the center in the preparation and evaluation of the contract and specifications for the CHP.

“ESG is proud to support NASA in the development and construction of this mission-critical energy islanding project,” said Greg Collins, ESG President. “This highly efficient CHP plant will reduce greenhouse gases by approximately 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually,” added Collins. “That is equivalent to keeping about 4,100 passenger vehicles off the road each year.”

The other NASA centers and Headquarters are very interested in this project and how it can help not only JSC meet its energy goals, but all of NASA, Vectren said in a news release.

The ESPC project is expected to reduce JSC energy intensity by more than half as compared to 2014 levels and will help JSC meet site energy intensity reduction goals through 2025. The project will reduce NASA agency-wide energy intensity by roughly 10% as compared to 2014 levels. More than 50 local jobs will be created to support construction of the CHP plant and to implement additional efficiency measures.

Energy Systems Group (ESG), a wholly owned subsidiary of Vectren Corporation (VVC), is a leading energy services provider.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at