Cogeneration is the process of burning a fuel (typically natural gas but many other options are available) and using the energy from that combustion to produce electricity. At the same time electricity is being produced, the heat from the combustion is captured and returned to the building for use in the hot water system, cooling system, or any other way that helps you save money and be more efficient. Because the building benefits from its own electrical production, cogeneration helps reduce utility costs by as much as 85%. And while the utility savings are huge, the benefits don’t stop there. Here’s more of what CHP does for you:
Significant Utility Savings
As technology advances and continues to become an integral part of any project, the demand for electrical power steadily rises. Unfortunately, as demand rises so does the price per kilowatt (kW). As a result, buildings become bigger, brighter, smarter, and easier to manage but they also demand more power which results in higher utility costs. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Because electricity is produced on-site, your building becomes less dependent on the grid, thus reducing your electrical bill by as much as 85%! Some projects, depending on their needs, can even eliminate third-party electricity and produce 100% of the needed power on-site. Similarly, if the amount of power produced exceeds that of demand, there is the option of selling the electricity back to the utility company so that you actually make money from your electrical demand.
In many places, the current electrical infrastructure is barely able to keep up with demand. This causes occasional blackouts or brownouts and interrupts a normal workday. And what of those times when it takes hours or even days to restore power? With CHP, you don’t have to worry about the grid going down.
Because CHP generates the power you need on-site, you can enjoy consistent power regardless of what is happening with the grid – this is called running in “island mode”. CHP keeps your power on during outages, after destructive storms or other natural disasters, and when the grid can’t keep up. But that’s not all – CHP systems are so reliable they produce heat and power over 95% of the time. That’s reliability you can count on that the grid simply can’t offer.
Construction is booming, which is great for growth and job creation; however, such rapid growth is not great for utility stability. Take electricity as an example. Power plants need to be able to reach the buildings they service, and while the plants can increase the amount of power they produce (at least to a certain point), they can’t increase that power’s ability to travel effectively. Power lost over distance is called transmission loss, so the farther you are from a plant the harder and less efficient it is to keep your building powered – and who wants their building close to a dirty power plant?
Enter CHP. Because CHP produces electricity on-site, the overall power efficiency for the building skyrockets as high as 85%! That means if you put 100 therms of fuel into your building, you can expect to use 85 therms of energy. Traditional power plants are lucky to deliver 38-40% efficiency – even if you’re close to the plant. With virtually zero transmission loss and such a high-efficiency rating, your utility budget goes further and allows you to do more with less.
One of the biggest factors in deciding if a new technology is right for your project is how quickly it can deliver a return on investment. Many projects requiring heat production install commercial boilers, which are great and serviceable. The problem with traditional boilers is that they never deliver a return on investment. They work, they provide hot water, but they do nothing to reduce the project’s utility spending, and they don’t add value to the project as a whole.
Solar power is another great solution, but it’s very expensive. Plus, it can only offer a return when the sun is shining. So of the 8700 hours in a year, solar instantly loses half of those hours because it can’t produce at night – and that doesn’t even account for cloudy days.
CHP, on the other hand, delivers a maximum ROI because it can produce savings all 8700 hours a year. Plus, by installing a CHP system at your project, you get an asset that enhances the overall value of the project. In fact, many CHP systems begin to deliver a return after just a few years.
It’s no secret that the high amounts of pollution being spewed into the environment every day are damaging it. Energy production facilities are one of the biggest offenders in terms of the amount of pollution they create. In fact, power plants are responsible for nearly two-thirds of our nation’s sulfur dioxide emissions, a quarter of the nitrogen oxide emissions, a third of the mercury emissions, and a third of the carbon dioxide emissions.
One of the reasons these emissions are so high is because in typical energy production, the heat, together with its pollutants, is simply expelled into the atmosphere – there is nothing in place to reclaim and use it. With CHP, though, up to 98% of the heat is captured, cleaned, and used in the project’s hot water system, absorption chillers, pools, snow melt, or any number of applications. Thus CHP systems are not only better for your bottom line, they’re better for the environment.