Control Your Own Destiny with Combined Heat and Power Systems [PODCAST]

Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is the concurrent production of electricity or mechanical power and useful thermal energy (heating and/or cooling) from a single source of energy. Although it may not be widely recognized outside of industrial, commercial, institutional, and utility circles, CHP has been providing highly efficient electricity and process heat to some of the most vital industries, urban centers, and campuses in the U.S. for more than a century. In fact, Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station was a CHP facility when it opened in 1882—the same year POWER was first published.

According to the Department of Energy, most CHP applications can reasonably expect to operate at greater than 65% efficiency, a large improvement over the typical electricity-only power plant. President Obama believed so strongly in the benefits that he signed an executive order on August 30, 2012, establishing a national goal of adding 40 GW of new CHP capacity by 2020. However, the country will fall well short of that target; only 2.5 GW was added between 2012 and 2016.

Bill Castor, director of business development for Siemens Energy, was a guest on The POWER Podcast. Castor gave a presentation titled “Navigating Through the Challenges of Implementing Successful Onsite Generation Solutions in a Complex Market” on April 25 during the ELECTRIC POWER Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas, Nevada. Castor touched on some of the main points from his presentation during the podcast interview.

“CHP is an entirely different animal than your typical power plant because it is so intertwined with the end-user—the host—as well as impacted by the outside grid,” he said.

Castor noted that CHP results in not only reliability gains, efficiency gains, and environmental gains, but it also allows end-users to take control of their own destinies. “Controlling your own destiny is one of the phrases that really is attached to CHP as a driver for the potential hosts of those units,” Castor said.

“The whole story for CHP has to start, though, with the end-user,” Castor said. “You need to have that thermal host in order to make [CHP] a sensible alternative.”

Castor noted that industrial solutions come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Systems range from small to large, and can utilize an assortment of technologies including gas turbines, reciprocating engines, and fuel cells, as well as incorporating control systems, electrical systems, transformers, and more.

“Utilities in the past have traditionally resisted CHP coming because it tends to take large customers away from the utility,” Castor said. But that is changing. “Many of the cases that we’re looking at today involve either utility ownership and operation or at least a cooperation between the host and the utility to try to make those work,” he said.

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Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).