CHPing our way toward a better energy future …

No, not the California Highway Patrol (nor CHiPs), Cogeneration (Combined-Heat Power)  is combining the production of electricity and heat.  Right now, major US electricity production has waste heat that is that, waste. Tremendous opportunities exist in the Untied States for converting this “waste” to something useful.  And, well, in America’s  homes, the (just-finished winter season)  heating goes on without generating electricity.  That, however, is starting to change with the introduction of some Micro-CHP systems suitable for the homeowner and small business. (Excellent site for discussion.)

Climate Energy sells a micro-CHP that provides 120,000 btu heating system that generates 1.2 kilowatts of electricity.  While not enough to fully cover most homes electricial needs (perhaps covering half the total electrical load over a year), in the heating season, the Micro-CHP system has a high efficiency rating. 

Simply put, combined heat and power means that the fuel normally used to keep a home warm is used twice, first to produce electric power and then to heat the home. The Climate Energy freewatt is heat-led, and electric power is generated whenever heat is produced to satisfy normal space or water heating demands in the home. 

Climate Energy points out that a traditional grid electricity/home fuel furnace combination wastes over 60% of the availabe energy.  The Micro-CHP system reduces that waste to just 7-17%.

Climate Energy markets in the North East.

One ‘hot’ market for home CHP is the United Kingdom.  According to the Gizmag discussion Household heating takes pole position on the electricity grid

It is currently estimated that such mCHPs in homes and businesses could ultimately generate up to 20 GW of the UK’s energy demands, which is equivalent to the UK’s existing nuclear capacity. They are also far more efficient than centrally producing energy through power stations and more flexible too as energy is generated at the point of demand in the home, rather than through power stations, where the overall efficiency can be just 45 percent, compared to the 90 percent for a mCHP.

Players in the UK Micro-CHP market include Disenco Energy (a 15 kw heat and 3 kw electricity system) and PowerGen’s WhisperGen (which will be on the market in early 2009).

6 responses to “CHPing our way toward a better energy future …

  1. It also appears to provide a secondary benefit – power supply when the wires go down. Another big benefit in the NE, or any locale that regularly suffers power loss.

  2. J Frey — Thanks for posting this. I should have included that in the discussion, as this is an absolute benefit.

    In fact, the “additional” cost for going CHP rather than a traditional gas furnace is probably right around the range of the cost for buying a generator. Thus, if you also want a generator, there is no additional cost for all the eventual energy / fuel savings.

    Note, however, that this is a limited power supply. A 1.2 kilowatt doesn’t run your stove but it can keep the lights on and the food from spoiling in the refrigerator. (And, well, it would keep the heating system running so that you don’t freeze in winter.)

  3. It’s a lot harder to knock out underground gas pipelines than overhead power wires, in most of the country at least. I expect folks near fault lines might not count on CHP for power backup, but everyone else in the tornado/hurricane/severe thunderstorm areas could see some benefit.

    Your house would have to be specifically wired for the CHP to “know” what to power if the electrical grid went down, either that or shut down everything else in the house and leave the fridge plugged in. This can probably be done in retrofit but it’s sure a lot easier if you’re building.

    I’ve been following this for a while, Katrina and Rita in 2005 got a lot of people thinking about emergency generators.

  4. That’s really cool, A Siegel… thanks for posting it.

  5. Darren — Sensible to have some system like Gridpoint (www.gridpoint.com) as a power management system that would handle the challenge of prioritizing/managing power.

  6. Doug Snodgrass

    Erik Estrada
    Memo to self: contact agent to demand a cut.

    Signed, EE

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