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Combined Heat and Power: Redefining Energy Generation for a Sustainable Future

Author : Priyanka | December 21, 2023

If you are using traditional energy systems, it is high time for you to consider smarter methods of power generation that conserve valuable resources. An efficient energy system that not only produces electricity but also captures and utilizes excess heat. The combined heat and power (CHP) system does just that, offering a game-changing approach to energy production that maximizes efficiency and minimizes waste.

Let's explore how this innovative technology is revolutionizing the way we think about energy.

What is Combined Heat and Power?

Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is a technology that simultaneously produces electricity and thermal energy from a single energy source. It is a form of distributed generation that can be located at or near the point of energy consumption. CHP systems utilize a variety of fuels and technologies to generate electricity while capturing and using the heat that would be wasted during the power generation process.

Due to its ability to optimize energy usage, these systems are experiencing a surge in demand. As per the recent report of Kings Research, the global combined heat and power market is likely to attain a valuation of USD 30.89 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.20% from 2023 to 2030.

How does Combined Heat and Power Work?

The primary goal of CHP is to maximize energy efficiency by minimizing losses and utilizing the captured heat for various purposes, such as heating, cooling, steam generation, or hot water supply. By generating both electricity and thermal energy, CHP systems can achieve higher overall efficiencies compared to separate generation of electricity and heat.

Combined heat and power systems can be implemented at individual facilities, buildings, or as part of district energy systems. They are commonly used in industrial, commercial, institutional, and multifamily facilities where there is a consistent need for thermal energy throughout the year. CHP systems can also provide resilient power during grid outages, making them suitable for critical facilities.

To create awareness of CHP's potential in the business landscape, the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization Office (IEDO) has introduced the CHP Deployment Program. This program helps stakeholders identify market opportunities and implement CHP systems across various industries.

Exploring the Major Applications of Combined Heat and Power

CHP is used in various applications across different sectors. Below are some of its key applications:

  • Commercial Buildings: CHP is used in commercial buildings such as office buildings, hotels, nursing homes, and retail establishments.
  • Residential Buildings: It is also utilized in residential settings, including multifamily buildings, co-ops, and planned communities.
  • Industrial Facilities: Combined heat and power plants are commonly used in industrial facilities involved in chemicals, agriculture, ethanol production, pulp and paper manufacturing, and food processing.
  • Institutions: CHP finds applications in institutions such as colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons, and military bases.
  • Municipal Facilities: Municipal applications include district energy systems, wastewater treatment facilities, and schools.

Research and Developments in Combined Heat and Power

The research and developments in CHP encompass a range of initiatives and focus areas. Listed below are some key insights:

1. CHP R&D Program at National Laboratories

The U.S. Department of Energy's CHP Deployment Program provides resources to identify CHP market opportunities and support the implementation of CHP systems in various applications, including industrial, federal, commercial, and institutional settings.

2. Flexible CHP Systems

Ongoing projects focus on developing flexible CHP systems that can provide support services to the electric grid. This includes power electronics and control systems enabling seamless interconnection of CHP systems with the grid, as well as prime movers to make CHP systems more responsive to the demands of the modern grid.

3. High-Efficiency Turbines for CHP

Research efforts are directed toward developing high-efficiency turbines specifically designed for CHP applications. For example, Capstone Turbine Corporation, in association with NASA Glenn Research Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has developed a 370 kW microturbine with a net electrical efficiency of 42% and a total CHP efficiency of 85%. This clean and cost-effective microturbine maximizes functional exhaust energy and achieves ultra-low emissions levels.

4. District Energy and Microgrids

CHP is also integrated into district energy systems, as demonstrated by projects such as those at Clemson University and George Washington University, which aim to effectively integrate and enhance electricity generation and energy storage components of urban district energy systems

5. Clean Energy Economy and Transition

As part of New York's transition to a clean energy economy, research is being conducted to explore resources such as biogas, renewable natural gas (RNG), and hydrogen blends for use in CHP systems. Additionally, the potential transition of generation equipment to lower-carbon fuels, including hydrogen, biogas, and RNG, is being evaluated.

Bottom Line

Combined heat and power (CHP) represents a forward-thinking and sustainable approach to energy generation. By harnessing waste heat and maximizing energy efficiency, CHP systems offer a solution to the challenges of modern energy infrastructure. CHP systems are revolutionizing various sectors, including commercial and residential buildings, institutions, industrial and municipal facilities, and the energy sector. Supported by government policies, the CHP sector is experiencing growing demand. As the focus on clean energy and resilience continues to grow, CHP stands out as a promising technology that can contribute to a more sustainable and reliable energy future.

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