What is Cogeneration?
Cogeneration or, combined heat and power (CHP), is the practice of simultaneously generating heat and electricity by capturing some of the heat released from electricity generators and converting it to electricity for use in heating or cooling operations.
In separate electricity generation, the heat produced by a power plant gets wasted by being released into the environment. With the help of cogeneration equipment, most of the heat released can be recycled into thermal energy.
CHP systems prove to be very efficient for facilities that need on-site (or near-site) electricity generation and significant heat for the purpose of heating water or cooling through absorption technology, also known as ‘tri-generation’. In conventional conversion of fuel to electricity, over 2/3 of the energy input is lost as waste heat to the environment. By recycling this waste heat, CHP systems achieve efficiencies of 60% to 80%, a dramatic improvement from the average 33% efficiency of conventional fossil fuel power plants. As a result, CHP plants can reach efficiencies of up to 80% when they capture excess heat from the best conventional power plants.
Associated Renewable’s cogeneration/CHP consulting services aim to help clients capture useful heat generated from electricity-generating equipment that otherwise would be wasted. Cogeneration and CHP systems represent a true two-for-one deal for facilities requiring both on-site electricity generation and significant heat for operation while reducing air emissions.
When generating electricity through thermodynamics, the system utilizes only part of the heat energy generated since the rest gets wasted as exhaust fumes. Through combined-cycle cogeneration, the exhaust of one heat source (usually a gas turbine) is used as the heat source of another generator (a steam turbine), thereby utilizing heat efficiently to generate electricity.
Growth Opportunities in Cogeneration/ CHP
Across the globe, investments in GHG-reducing technologies have increased profoundly, with Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands1 leading the industry’s CHP cogeneration application. After recovering from the 2008-10 economic crisis, countries like Germany and France have been quick to capitalize on cogeneration as a source of electricity generation by modernizing their power plants. Within combined cycle cogeneration, these countries present huge opportunities for instituting efficient energy-capturing CHP systems since they are facing rising energy demands and massive industrial growth.
The potential for CHP cogeneration is expanding enormously, with Denmark generating more than 50% of its total electricity from cogeneration systems; Finland around 40% and the Netherlands about 30%1. Additionally, Spain, France and Germany present excellent potentials for electricity production through cogeneration.
CHP Trends and Outlook
Existing CHP cogeneration plants are using newer technology, different temperature levels and fuels to generate electricity through heat conversion. As the technology matures and costs decrease even further, cogeneration efficiencies will increase.
Trigeneration, the process of converting fuels to three energy sources – electricity, hot water and chilled water, is also gaining prevalence with both industrial and commercial end users.
Looking ahead, the price and availability of natural gas will be a major factor in determining the level of CHP adoption, since it is a major fuel in most cogeneration plants. According to a recent study (European Cogeneration Market, Frost & Sullivan 2012), the cogeneration market is expected to generate revenues of €674.3 million in 2018.
Associated Renewable’s cogeneration/ CHP consulting team provides clients with the latest technical instrumentation and incentives for effective deployment. Our commercial cogeneration process will quantify how much savings potential there is for cogeneration technology and the associated costs for implementation. We will propose and design an array of cogeneration solutions to specifically meet your building’s energy requirements.
1Frost & Sullivan (2012), Cogeneration - an opportunity to improve energy efficiency. Vol. 32 Issue 3, p32-33, 2p.