A Macro Market for Micro-CHP?
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A version of this article appears in the July/August 2008
issue of Home Energy Magazine.
July 01, 2008
With rising fuel prices and an electric grid near maximal capacity, the economic benefits of good CHP applications in mulitfamily buildings can be substantial to both the investor and the local utility.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants simultaneously generate electricity and heat at the point of use and can achieve fuel conversion efficiencies of up to 90%. Compare this to a traditional remote central power plant, where electricity is generated at 35%–55% efficiency and then transmitted over long distances, while the remaining 45%–65% of waste heat is left behind because it’s not easily transported. The advantage for CHP plants is that they receive primary energy, often in the form of natural gas, with the waste heat “still inside.” While CHP systems typically have electrical efficiencies of only 22%–29%, the recoverable thermal energy of 50%–65% can bring the overall fuel conversion efficiency to 90%. With growing environmental awareness and an increasing desire to reduce carbon emissions, this efficiency difference is too large to ignore. And of course, with rising fuel prices and an electric grid near maximal capacity, the economic benefits of good CHP applications can be substantial to both the investor and the local utility. How Low Can You Go? During the energy crisis of the 1970s, large industrial plants, hospitals, and other large energy users were the primary target for CHP applications, due to the economies of scale ...
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