In February 2015, Lakeland College opened the doors of its new Bio-Energy Centre. The building features a micro cogeneration unit built by Yanmar Energy Systems Co. Ltd. of Japan. The cogen unit uses an engine fueled by natural gas to generate electricity; at the same time, water is heated by the engine’s warmth. Heat from the engine’s water jacket and exhaust is collected through heat exchangers and used to provide base heat to the centre. The Yanmar unit is rated to simultaneously produce 10 kW of electricity and 16.8 kW of heat.
The cogen starts up automatically when the building needs heat and begins to generate electricity; any electricity not used in the building is exported to the Lakeland College grid for use at the main campus. Electricity generated from the cogen is generally less expensive than purchasing grid electricity because natural gas is much less expensive than electricity — according to the Government of Alberta’s Utilities Consumer website, the average cost of electricity in 2014 was $0.0764/kWh, which is equivalent to $21.22 per gigajoule. The average price for natural gas over the same period was $4.51 per gigajoule, less than a quarter the cost.
Because the cogen is so efficient, Lakeland anticipated heating the building for free; researchers were monitoring results to determine if that were true.