Cogeneration(Combined Heat and Power or CHP) is the generation of electricity and other energy jointly, especially the utilization of the steam left over from electricity generation to produce heat. Cogeneration is a great way to increase the efficiency of your energy usage. For example a Microturbine-Powered CHP application can increase energy efficiency from 28% to 80% plus. Cogeneration is a great way to improve your energy efficiency and save money.
In the beginning of the 20th century the main source of mechanical power was steam (steam boats, steam powered locomotives, etc). When electricity started becoming more common place, and more practical in application, industries began the transition from steam to electrical power. Then, they realized they could generate electricity with their systems, and began to generate both steam and electricity.
A fascinating excerpt from Bernarnd F. Kolanowski gives us a little more insight;
"The practical use of cogeneration is as old as the generation of electricity itself. When electrification of broad areas was devised to replace gas and kerosene lighting in residences and commercial facilities
the concept of central station power generation plants was born. District heating systems were popular during the late 1800's and why not. District heating dates back to Roman times when warm
water was circulated in open trenches to heat buildings and communal baths. District electrificationdates back to Thomas Edison's plants in New York and it didn't take long to combine the two. The prime movers that drove electric generators throw off waste heat that is normally blown to atmosphere. By capturing that heat and making low pressure steam that steam could be piped throughout the district for heating homes and business. Thus, cogeneration on a fairly large scale was born."
Cogeneration is not a new concept, we are just a lot better at it now.
Is it being implemented now?
Yes. CHP applications are picking up steam and moving forward at a rapid pace. A very famous institution, MIT (you may have heard of it), has implemented a cogeneration plant on their camps. Cogeneration is essential for MIT if they wish to reach their goal to reduce their carbon footprint 30% by 2030. It is a huge win for the concept of cogeneration to be embraced at one of the most well known institutions of applied science and engineering in the world. If they think it is a good idea, we should probably pay attention.
Horizon Power Systems is also implementing this technology at a very rapid pace. Earlier this year they secured an order for several units for a customer in the San Juan Basin. This is great to see, because this customer is in the gas and oil industry. Due to the increased efficiency of energy consumption provided by cogen, they will use less resources to produce more energy, which is good for the bottom line and for our environment.
A changing world
There are a lot of technologies in the world attempting to popularize and modernize the way in which we generate energy, all with the goal of saving money and preserving the environment. From Solar Power, Wind Farms, to Cogeneration, we as a society are making huge steps in the direction of sustainable energy generation and consumption. Cogeneration is becoming more and more viable as the months go on, as more people become aware of it and it becomes more affordable and practical to use. Companies around the world are putting effort into increasing it's efficiency at a very rapid pace. The Energy Industry is changing, it is growing more than it ever has, and much of that growth is in green energy, and the pursuit of efficiency. Who knows, in 50 years, the way we generate and consume power could be as different from today, as today is from 100 years ago.
It is an exciting time to be in this industry.