The Combined Heat and Power (CHP) or otherwise known as Cogeneration plant is one of the most sensible methods to recover wasted heat energy in Electrical Power generation. CHP process is the use of a heat engine or a power plant to generate Electrical Power and useful Heat simultaneously.
Interestingly though you may not have been conscious of it, when you switch on the heating system of a car in winter you would be using the car’s engine as a CHP!
In a Power plant or an Electricity Generator a tremendous amount of heat is produced as a by product which is normally dissipated to the environment through Cooling Towers, Radiators, Flue Gas etc. A CHP is designed to entrap this waste heat for use in Domestic or Industrial heating applications
Did you know the worlds first Power Plant designed and constructed by Thomas A Edison around 1882 was a CHP? However over the years due political, commercial and other reasons the CHP systems were forgotten in favor of less efficient Thermal Power Plants where the waste heat is being thrown out to the environment.
A fact that should interest most environmentalists is that certain designs of co-generation plants are run on Bio mass,industrial and municipal waste etc. as fuel.
Arguably CHP is one of the most energy efficient power generation methods as the efficiencies can be high as up to 80%.Compare this with the average conventional power station’s efficiency which is in the range of 40% -50%!
Use of fossil fuel in power generation has been labeled as more or less a necessary evil in recent times. The accusations leveled against it run from green house gas production to economic turmoil! CHP provides a ready solution in that it generates almost double the power with less combustion of fuel.
A further interesting point to think over is that Methane (come to think of it, in this case an unavoidable evil worse than even Co2!) generated from Biogas Generators, solid municipal waste and animal farms may be employed as fuel for CHP systems.
As it is about 2% of Irelands total electrical power production comes from CHP Plants. If we are looking at statistics, a staggering 50% of Denmark’s Power Generation and 40% of that in Netherland originate in Cogeneration Plants (CHP). Across Europe this figure is about 10%. (It looks as if we have a lot to catch up with!).
Now if we come to our main interest, how will this benefit you and me, the average man on the street and the Industrialists who are at their wits end to find a viable solution?
- Primarily the CHP being highly fuel efficient, the cost of unit power will not be as high as with less efficient processes. (Which means that when the crude barrel is US$ 127 it is bad but CHP plant would still be better off and when the price drops down to US$ 65, so much the better!).
- Imagine a situation like in Denmark where 50% of power production is by CHP plants .The savings in fuel costs would be enormous.The benefits would no doubt ultimately cascade down to the street level.
- Industrialists who have a need for heat energy, steam and such will be directly benefitted if they generate their own power.
- Being the best environmentally friendly Fossil Fuel operated Power generation system, the green house gas production will be much less and the dependence on depleting fuel (and other) resources will be reduced.
- Should Biomass, Municipal waste etc be used as a primary fuel or raw materials the cost of power may be still less and will provide at least a partial solution to Municipalities’ never ending pain in the neck!
All told, CHP or Cogeneration Plants offer many solutions to a myriad of problems, social and economic, faced by Ireland. Now that the winter is almost upon us the cheap heating options offered by Combined Heat and Power Plants will not be a reality this year or perhaps even next year. But it can certainly be so in the following winter if serious thought is given now and planned ahead!