Applied Energy, Vol.179, 565-574, 2016
Flexible and stable heat energy recovery from municipal wastewater treatment plants using a fixed-inverter hybrid heat pump system
Among many options to improve energy self-sufficiency in sewage treatment plants, heat extraction using a heat pump holds great promise, since wastewater contains considerable amounts of thermal energy. The actual heat energy demand at municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) varies widely with time; however, the heat pumps typically installed in WWTPs are of the on/off controlled fixed-speed type, thus mostly run intermittently at severe part-load conditions with poor efficiency. To solve this mismatch, a specially designed, fixed-inverter hybrid heat pump system incorporating a fixed-speed compressor and an inverter-driven, variable-speed compressor was developed and tested in a real WWTP. In this hybrid configuration, to improve load response and energy efficiency, the base-heat load was covered by the fixed-speed compressor consuming relatively less energy than the variable-speed type at nominal power, and the remaining varying load was handled by the inverter compressor which exhibits a high load-match function while consuming relatively greater energy. The heat pump system developed reliably extracted heat from the treated effluent as a heat source for heating and cooling purposes throughout the year, and actively responded to the load changes with a high measured coefficient of performance (COP) of 4.06 for heating and 3.64 for cooling. Moreover, this hybrid operation yielded a performance up to 15.04% better on part loads than the single inverter operation, suggesting its effectiveness for improving annual energy saving when applied to highly load-fluctuating real WWTPs. To improve the overall efficiency of the heat recovery system, although the heat pump is the largest energy-consuming component, taking up 56.0-68.5% of the total energy, new efforts to develop a novel design are also needed to make the heat exchanger more energy-efficient. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.