A Brief Guide to Combined
Heat and Power
By Mark P Knight
Combined Heat and Power or CHP is a relatively unknown technology to anyone with little knowledge of the different renewable technologies available and generally isn't the first technology you come to think of when researching ways to save energy and the environment, but CHP is a highly efficient way to use both fossil and renewable fuels to generate energy. This article explains what CHP is and what some benefits are.
First of all CHP is the generation of heat and power in a single process, that means when the electricity is generated the heat from generating it is used at the same time. When the electricity is being generated the by-product heat is stored in a heat recovery boiler and can be used to raise steam, to provide water heating, while the electricity can be used for the electrical needs of a home or business. To achieve this, a CHP plant needs a fuel source, such as natural gas or biomass and generally consists of a gas turbine, an engine or a steam turbine to drive an alternator which produces the electricity.
CHP systems vary in size, some are large to power large industrial businesses and some are small to power a single home usually referred to as micro CHP systems. These systems represent a gas-fired boiler, providing heat for space and water heating, just like a boiler, but also the added extra of providing electricity for lighting and appliances. There are two types of micro CHP; Stirling engines and fuel cells, the latter being a future technology.
A major benefit of CHP is that overall efficiency is in excess of 70% at the point of use. This is because CHP systems extensively use the by-product heat, produced during electricity generation, unlike traditional power stations where the heat/steam is lost through the large chimneys into the air. A typical power station would have around 30-50% efficiencies at the point of use. A big factor of power stations having lower efficiencies is that the power needs to be transmitted to the point of use, unlike CHP, resulting in energy losses.
CHP is suitable for buildings that particularly need a lot of energy or operate around the clock, such as leisure centers, hotels, factories and hospitals. CHP systems can also be used for cooling, with the addition of a cooler, a process called "tri-generation".
The article was written by Mark at Energy Measures, where more information on renewable energy technologies, such as CHP can be found.
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