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Cogeneration and On-site Power

CHP (combined heat and power) or cogeneration is defined as the simultaneous production of electricity and usable heat using a fuel such as natural gas, although a variety of fuels can be used.

Before explaining more about cogeneration, first it is necessary to understand a little about traditional generation methods.

Most power generation is based on burning a fuel, predominately coal, although oil or gas are used, producing steam. It is the steam pressure that spins the turbines that in turn drive the generators to create electricity, unfortunately this is inherently an inefficient process.

No more than approximately one third (33%) of the total energy potential within original fuel can be converted into steam pressure (although it must be said that the efficiency of gas turbines is nearer fifty percent 50%). The balance, waste heat, without a local application is dumped into the atmosphere, using cooling towers or other convenient techniques.

How cogeneration systems work

Cogeneration systems produce both high grade hot water / steam and electric power. Thermal performance is comparable to conventional boilers, but in addition, 26% of the fuel's energy is converted into high-grade electrical energy. The overall efficiency in the region of eighty-five percent (85%) is achieved.

Often modified internal combustion engines can be used, burning natural gas as a fuel source to enable facilities to efficiently create their own electricity and hot water (or steam) on site. The valuable heat energy would be used to drive air conditioning or other process heating needs.

Of course the cogeneration plant is self contained (within the fence) mitigating the risk of external grid failures. To learn more about CHP and cogeneration:

  • Cogeneration (2 pages pdf)
  • Cogeneration simple schematic drawing (1 page pdf)
  • Cogeneration report


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    tags: cogeneration, cogen