Cogeneration, On-Site Power, Reciprocating Engines

Maryland’s Newest Casino Takes a Creative Approach to Power

Issue 12 and Volume 118.

A new combined heat and power (CHP) system was installed at Baltimore's Horseshoe Casino
A new combined heat and power (CHP) system was installed at Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino earlier this year. The project featured the Series 4000 CHP system, which is optimized for natural gas and a diesel-powered Series 1600 emergency backup generator set. Photo courtesy: Curtis Engine

By Christian Mueller, MTU Onsite Energy

Alongside Baltimore’s professional sports venues and the famed Inner Harbor, the city’s south side has welcomed Maryland’s second-largest casino, the Horseshoe Baltimore. On August 26, 2014, the $442 million urban, two-story casino swung open its doors with much fanfare to unveil a 122,000-square-foot gaming floor, outdoor entertainment plaza and 20,000-square-foot marketplace featuring authentic Charm City food outlets, three premier restaurants and several bars and lounges. The “city-integrated casino,” as it’s being billed, was designed to maximize connectivity with surrounding businesses.

Large facilities like the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore face unique design challenges and complexities. Casinos must operate around the clock while meeting high energy demands. To meet these needs cost effectively, the house placed its bet on an MTU Onsite Energy Series 4000 natural gas CHP system. The Series 4000 CHP system will support the continuous electricity and climate control demands of the two-story casino with its output of 1,149 kilowatts of electricity (kWe) and 4,137,000 BTUs of heat per hour. Using captured heat from the engine’s jacket water and exhaust systems, the CHP is expected to more than double the overall energy efficiency of the building. As part of a planned expansion, the CHP, which is piped for the addition of an absorption chiller that will use the thermal output to produce cooling, will be converted into a trigeneration system.

To complement the system, MTU Onsite Energy also provided Horseshoe Casino with a diesel-powered Series 1600 emergency backup generator set. The end-to-end power solution – sourced and installed by Curtis Engine & Equipment, MTU Onsite Energy’s local Baltimore-area dealer – marks the company’s first combined sale of a diesel backup generator set and gas-powered Series 4000 CHP in the United States. MTU Onsite Energy is a Rolls-Royce brand and is a producer of diesel- and gas-fueled power generation systems.

CHP Technology

CHP systems are one of today’s most efficient, reliable and cost-effective approaches to electricity and thermal energy generation, providing smart solutions for businesses seeking to control heating, lighting and cooling costs. CHP is the simultaneous production of electricity and heat from the same fuel source. For energy users with high thermal loads, consistent electric and thermal energy requirements and around-the-clock operations, CHP technology is a desirable solution. In addition to cost-effectiveness, CHP systems provide benefits that not only serve the individual facility of service, but also reach the communities in which they operate by offering large-scale energy efficiency improvements.

In the typical process of electricity generation, prime movers, such as reciprocating engines, also generate large quantities of waste heat. CHPs capture this waste heat and put it to use in industrial processes, space heating or absorption chillers, which can more than double overall energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions by up to 50 percent and decrease primary energy consumption over conventional power plants by up to 40 percent. This converts into huge savings for a company’s bottom line.

MTU Onsite Energy offers CHP systems in four market clusters – biogas, landfill and wastewater treatment, natural gas non-CHP and natural gas CHP. Each has its unique attributes and applications:


Applications represented in this cluster are those that use anaerobic digesters to produce methane rich biogas from dairy, livestock and food waste. The goal is to provide energy from waste products. Because methane is a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2, the emphasis is to reduce the amount that escapes to the atmosphere by using it in a CHP system. Electricity is the main energy produced in this application-either for self-consumption or to feed to the grid. Biogas quality is critical to long unit life, as sulfur content in the fuel must be minimized.

Landfill and Wastewater Treatment

This specialty segment focuses on converting waste to energy to produce electricity for self-consumption or to feed to the grid. Large amounts of methane are produced in landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Instead of burning this gas in a flare, it can be used in a CHP system to produce electricity. Gas quality is critical because the content of the raw material used to produce the gas may continually change. Gas composition must be monitored continuously for methane and siloxane content to provide quality gas for the module.

Natural Gas Non-CHP

Typical applications include peaking plants, independent power producers, industrial facilities and any other requirement for electric power generation.

Through onsite generation, the focus is to produce electricity more cost-effectively than purchasing it from the utility, enabling independence from the grid.

Electrical efficiency and total lifecycle costs of the CHP system are critical for the economics of onsite generation. The mode of operation can be either grid parallel and/or island.

Natural Gas CHP

The most common applications include commercial buildings, industrial facilities, healthcare facilities, shopping malls, greenhouses, hotels, condominiums and universities. These facilities have a significant year-round demand for heating, cooling and electricity. A CHP system is well suited to consistently provide for these energy needs at a more cost-effective rate than the utility. Total efficiency of a CHP system can exceed 90 percent in these applications.

Preparing for a Powerful Start

Noise, vibration, location, mounting and temperatures are just a few of the considerations to be made when installing a generator set. However, for Horseshoe Baltimore ensuring the casino would remain operable during a utility outage was a top priority. To guarantee uninterrupted, mission-critical power, the Horseshoe Casino’s CHP plant has the flexibility to run in two different modes:

  • Islanded-Mode: In a case where the utility becomes disconnected, the casino’s backup generator set would provide sole power to loads.
  • Black Start: In the absence of power from a utility, such as in the case of a black out, the CHP can start quickly with the help of the casino’s backup generator set to pickup load.

Strategically coupling the MTU Onsite Energy CHP with the Series 1600 emergency backup generator set safeguards Horseshoe Casino – and its guests – against utility outages both small and large. After completing installation, the commissioning phase also met its own distinct challenges. As a 24/7 industry, the gaming facility welcomes patrons through its doors at all hours meaning they can never risk potential interruptions to operations during testing. Because of this, Curtis Engine conducted the commissioning during off-peak hours to minimize impact on normal building operation.

CHP Benefits

CHP systems deliver considerable economic and environmental benefits compared to using conventional utilities to purchase electricity and onsite-generated heat.

Performance and Reliability

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), power disruptions can cost casinos more than $1 million a day in lost revenue. Safeguarding against power reliability concerns is imperative for the high demands of a casino offering continuous power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

CHP systems can also be integrated seamlessly into existing heating and electrical systems, providing a steady supply of hot or chilled water as well as high quality, continuous power that can stabilize voltage and current sags, spikes, transients and phase voltage imbalances while allowing a facility to remain operational in the event of a utility outage.

Energy and Cost Savings

By utilizing heat that would otherwise be wasted from the production of electricity, CHP systems require less fuel than separate heat and power systems and can guarantee a reduction in operating costs, while helping control rising energy costs. Over the long term, CHP can significantly reduce energy expenditures that can be applied to the bottom line.

The cost savings CHP systems provide are not just associated with the actual unit. As the benefits of CHP are realized in the United States, states are increasingly providing incentives to support the use of this technology. Horseshoe Casino took advantage of Maryland’s Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) Smart Energy Savers Program. This program offered the Casino three stages of incentives:

1) Design: $75 per kW
2) Installation: $175 per kW
3) Production: $0.07 per kWh for 18 months

Horseshoe Casino anticipates a savings of approximately $644,000 during the production phase.

Horseshoe Casino
Horseshoe Casino anticipates a savings of approximately $644,000 during production, thanks to the installation of a new combined head and power (CHP) system. CHP systems are one of today’s most efficient, reliable and cost-effective approaches to power generation. Photo courtesy: Curtis Engine

CHP in the United States

In recent years, discussions on CHP technology have increased steadily, particularly in the United States. However, this technology is not new or untested. It has been in use for more than 130 years and its adoption is on a steady incline. In 1882, Thomas Edison’s first electric generating plant – the Pearl Street Station in New York City – used waste heat from the plant’s steam engines to provide heating for nearby buildings. By supplying both heat and power, Edison was able to achieve an overall efficiency of 50 percent.

According to the EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States 2014 report, “At least 16 resort hotels and casinos with more than 500 rooms in the United States currently have CHP systems, and an increasing number of hotels and casinos are choosing CHP systems to meet their energy needs.” The report further notes that, “More than 70 are likely to meet simple payback on their investment within five years or less.”

Rising interest in this energy solution is partially fueled by an Executive Order signed by President Obama in 2012 that called for a “national goal of deploying 40 gigawatts of new, cost-effective industrial CHP in the United States by the end of 2020.” This order has played a role in the increased adoption of environmentally friendly and cost-cutting CHP systems by both the private and public sectors, many through state-based incentive programs like the one in Maryland. Additionally, an increasing number of states are now treating CHP solutions comparably to more widely known renewable energy technologies.

Is CHP Right For You?

Modern CHP systems have made it possible for many facilities like Horseshoe Casino Baltimore to reap the economic and environmental benefits of the technology. To examine whether a CHP is the right fit for your facility, first you must start by conducting a financial analysis that typically consists of two parts. The first part examines procurement, installation and construction costs, which includes an analysis of capital expenditures, depreciation and taxes. The second part examines operating and maintenance costs, which consists of fuel consumption, and preventive, scheduled and corrective maintenance compared to the current (or projected) cost of electricity and heat. The analysis results are offered in a return on investment calculation, which provides the net cash flow to the initial investment over a number of years. This financial analysis will reveal whether there is sufficient payback potential to justify installing a CHP system. Of course, influences other than financial, such as environmental impact, may factor into determining the viability of a project.

Another key to maximizing the cost effective offerings of a CHP unit to your facility is understanding the available state incentives. Be sure to check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) to access the comprehensive incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy in your area.

Generally, the best applications are those that use electricity and heat simultaneously, operate for more than 4,000 hours per year and have a suitable gaseous fuel supply. However, some applications that only aim at producing electricity, such as landfills and wastewater treatment facilities, are also well suited for the technology because the fuel source is virtually free. Examples of facilities likely to be suitable applications for CHP systems include hospitals, corporate and university campuses, wastewater treatment plants, industrial facilities and commercial facilities.


Large hospitals and medical centers need uncompromised electricity and consistent heating/cooling to ensure patient safety. Constant power is not an option, but a literal life-or-death requirement.

Corporate and University Campuses

Many campus facilities are already set up for district heating and cooling, therefore, CHP systems are a natural fit to produce electricity and heat.

Wastewater Treatment Plants

A CHP system can be used to produce the electricity needed to operate pumps and blowers, while the waste heat from the engine can be used to warm effluent tanks to speed up bacterial digestion or to dry sludge for disposal.

Industrial Facilities

Facilities with simultaneous needs for heating and cooling, which include manufacturing, food processing and canning/bottling plants, and ethanol or pulp and paper plants are ideal candidates for CHP technology.

Commercial Facilities

In addition to casinos, large resorts, hotel complexes, sports clubs, health clubs, shopping malls and greenhouses can all benefit from CHP systems. These facilities have consistently high-energy consumption of electricity as well as heat and cooling.

In addition to providing the most cost-effective long-term energy solution for various applications, CHP systems are at the heart of helping the world meet energy demands by delivering fuel efficiency and lowering emissions. Alternative sources like solar and wind power are viable energy options, but have little impact on the cost savings. The right balance of low-cost, environmentally-friendly, reliable power is what will make the largest strides toward financially smart global sustainability – and CHP technology is the silent hero that will help us get there.

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