Meet The Deeply Sexy EnerTech No One Is Talking About: CHP

combined heat and power chp plant photo

When energy experts periodically promote combined heat and power (CHP) (sometimes referred to as "cogeneration" or "district heating,") generally speaking, it 'don't get no respect.' This needs to change, as CHP's potential to increase energy efficiency is very high; and the technology offers returns for investors and municipal taxpayers.

Perhaps CHP is commonly overlooked because it lacks novelty and is hard to explain in a sound-byte. Also, because the engineering and layout requirements for CHP often require collaboration among public and private sectors, the US media has no celebrity figure to characterize it with (like the Pickens Plan does, for example). Finally, CHP historically has been more of a downtown thing, rarely found in the exurban setting. Hopefully with US President-elect being from Chicago, where there are plenty of CHP examples, like this one, there will be a greater follow up. Look below for details.The US Department of Energy recently released an excellent and comprehensive assessment of CHP's potential - "Combined Heat and Power: Effective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future" (downloadable pdf file) It is an astonishing report.

What CHP is.

CHP, also known as cogeneration, is the concurrent production of electricity or mechanical power and useful thermal energy (heating and/or cooling) from a single source of energy. CHP is a type of distributed generation, which, unlike central station generation, is located at or near the point of consumption. Instead of purchasing electricity from a local utility and then burning fuel in a furnace or boiler to produce thermal energy, consumers use CHP to provide these energy services in one energy-efficient step. As a result, CHP improves efficiency and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For optimal efficiency, CHP systems typically are designed and sized to meet the users’ thermal baseload demand.

CHP is not a single technology but a suite of technologies that can use a variety of fuels to generate electricity or power at the point of use, allowing the heat that would normally be lost in the power generation process to be recovered to provide needed heating and/or cooling. This allows for much greater improvement in overall fuel efficiency, resulting in lower costs and CO emissions. CHP’s potential for energy savings is vast. While the traditional method of producing separate heat and power has a typical combined efficiency of 45%, CHP systems can operate at efficiency levels as high as 80 percent.

Benefits of CHP
Using CHP today, the United States already avoids more than 1.9 Quadrillion British thermal units (Quads) of fuel consumption and 248 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions annually compared to traditional separate production of electricity and thermal energy. This CO2 reduction is the equivalent of removing more than 45 million cars from the road. In addition, CHP is one of the few options in the portfolio of energy alternatives that combines environmental effectiveness with economic viability and improved competitiveness. the near term, that can help address current and future U.S. energy needs.

If the United States adopted high-deployment policies to achieve 20 percent of generation capacity from CHP by 2030, it could save an estimated 5.3 quadrillion Btu (Quads) of fuel annually, the equivalent of nearly half the total energy currently consumed by US households.2 Cumulatively through 2030, such policies could also generate $234 billion in new investments3 and create nearly 1 million new highly-skilled, technical jobs throughout the United States. CO2 emissions could be reduced by more than 800 million metric tons (MMT) per year, the equivalent of taking more than half of the current passenger vehicles in the US off the road. In this 20 percent scenario, over 60 percent of the projected increase in CO2 emissions between now and 2030 could be avoided.

All cites above are via:USDOE, Industrial Distributed Energy Program

For TreeHugger archives on CHP see the following.
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