Low Cost Micro DG/CHP for Use in Laundry Facilities

A rotary engine-based micro-combined heat and power system for use in laundry facilities.

The Regents of the University of California, Irvine


Irvine, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

The project has been completed. With appropriate engine tuning, the system could attain emission levels below those required by the California Air Resources Board for oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide. The overall efficiency of the system was 75 percent, which indicates total savings potential of approximately $1,300 per month in the winter and $2,080 per month in the summer, based on relevant utility rates.

The Issue

Distributed generation (DG) and combined heat and power (CHP) are critical components needed to support reliability of the electric grid in regions of Southern California impacted by the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. However, widespread deployment of DG and CHP continues to encounter barriers, especially at scales appropriate to smaller commercial applications including: (1) perception of technology as risky, (2) difficulty meeting local air quality standards and obtaining permits, (3) matching of electric and waste heat loads for maximum efficiency, and (4) cost, both initial and continuing operations and maintenance.

Project Innovation

To improve grid reliability in the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) territory and increase market options for small-scale combined heat and power (CHP), this research developed and deployed a low cost automotive engine based micro-distributed generation (DG)/CHP system (with 35 kW max output) using a Mazda Rotary Engine. Initially targeting commercial/industrial laundry facilities, the potential in the SONGS territory is more than 3,700 installation sites at hotels, hospitals, jails/prisons, and laundromats representing an estimated 130-260 MW of electric grid support. This project specifically addressed engine operation and control in a generator application with emphasis on engine availability/reliability and serviceability. Further, the project addressed waste heat recovery to maximize utilization and overall thermal efficiency of the micro DG/CHP system specifically for commercial laundry facilities.

Project Benefits

The system addresses small power need markets that have not been satisfactorily addressed by existing DG/CHP systems. It addresses and is expected to help overcome the current deployment hindrances identified for DG/CHP systems. The rotary engine has advantages in size, noise, and vibration, over conventional piston engines. Analysis shows improvements in initial capital cost, and lifetime operation and maintenance costs compared to existing benchmark systems.

Economic Development

Economic Development

There is potential for the application of the low cost rotary engine micro-DG/CHP system to the more than 3,700 commercial laundry sites in the SONGS territory and to nearly 10,000 commercial laundries in California.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

The project develops a system that is compliant with California Air Resources Board’s 2007 and 2013 air emissions standards and can be readily sited.

Greater Reliability


There is potential for widespread grid support in the SONGS territory in commercial/industrial laundry facilities that can benefit from micro-DG/CHP with an estimated potential of 130-260 MW.

Key Project Members

Project Member

G Samuelsen

Principal Investigator and Program Manager

Match Partners


Mazda North American Operations


Contact the Team