DEP issues new permit process for cogeneration projects

TRENTON – The state Department of Environmental Resources has streamlined its permitting process.

DEP announced it has developed a new general permit that it said would make it faster and easier for applicants to utilize cogeneration: turning energy used for heating into electricity.

The new system will apply to a range of applicants: small- to moderate-size manufacturers, office complexes, apartment complexes, hospitals, schools and others.

Cogeneration takes waste exhaust heat and uses it to generate electricity and heat.

“This general permit will allow operators of a wide range of facilities to more quickly install a cleaner technology, save on their energy bills, reduce demand for electricity from the power grid, and stimulate economic growth,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a release.

The Christie administration’s Energy Master Plan calls for the development of 1,500 megawatts of combined heat and power generation over the next decade.

DEP said that the new general permit covers new combined heat and power facilities up to about 5 megawatts. Projects that generate more than 5 megawatts must still apply for facility-specific air permits.

The technology that is used must still meet the state’s pollution control standards, DEP stated.

Responding to the DEP announcement about cogeneration, N.J. Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said that replacing existing facilities is a good thing.

“Taking an old furnace at a college and replacing it with combined heat and power is good environmentally,’’ he said.

He raised a cautionary note. “However, with new facilities, there may be questions about adding air pollution in areas that already have too much,’’ he said.

Further, the Sierra Club contrasted the DEP cogeneration permitting announcement with steps taken by the Christie administration, such as pulling the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and eliminating the Retail Margin Fund.

RGGI grants had been used for cogeneration projects, and fees from the Margin Fund were to be used for renewable and cogeneration energy projects, he said.

To apply for the Combined Heat and Power General Permit, facility managers may access the Air Permitting Program website at www.state.nj.us/dep/aqpp/gp.html. Applicants need to complete a registration form online and email it to Air_General_Permits@dep.state.nj.us for approval. Instructions are included on the registration form. Questions may be directed to the Air Quality Permitting Program at (609) 633-2829.