Combined Heat and Power: Profit or Passion?

by Contributor KelscNM on ‎11-09-2011 08:12 AM


I have had the opportunity over the years to participate, as both a presenter and an audience member, with a lot of diverse organizations that have a very common purpose: the advancement of combined heat and power, aka cogeneration.  A short list of these organizations include U.S. Combined Heat and Power Association, U.S. EPA CHP Application Centers, International District Energy Association, Cogen Europe, and the U.S. Green Building Council.  I’ve also been a supporter of publications covering these topics, such as Cogeneration and Onsite Power Production and Distributed Energy.

For those of you just starting to investigate CHP, here are the key potential benefits:

  1. Reduced energy expenditure: By using the same machine to produce all or a percentage of your operation’s heat and electric power requirements, simultaneously, you spend less money on energy.  Of course, the amount of savings will depend on regional factors including fuel/electricity pricing, and potential governmental incentives supporting energy efficiency.
  2. Reduced carbon footprint.  If displacing traditional coal power generation with natural gas power generation, emissions and carbon footprint are effectively reduced.  This is particularly true when using a biogas or landfill gas fuel source that also destroys ambient methane in the process.
  3. High efficiency:  By replacing an older boiler system that may be < 50%, and displacing grid electricity that nets 25% - 35% efficiency by the time the electrons reach your doorstep, you make much more efficient use, up to 90% efficient use, of the same natural resources.

So, why the interest by a Caterpillar employee in this combined heat and power thing?  Well, I’d have to admit that working for a manufacturer of combined heat and power systems that includes reciprocating engine generators and turbine generators has a lot to do with it.  I’ll be honest and admit that at times, I feel a bit shy when bellying up to the table at industry events with a group CHP purists; government employees or commerce and industry end users, who are in this thing for either pure environmental reasons or energy independence causes.  Overcoming the notion that I am feigning interest in this concept to turn a buck is a challenge.

However, if there is any doubt about Caterpillar Electric Power’s passion for what cogeneration can do for our customers, then I would encourage you to meet my coworker, Francois Xavier-Saury.  Francois has spent the majority of his career at Caterpillar travelling throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East developing cogeneration projects and educating audiences on the economic and environmental benefits of cogeneration.  And he has seen it all…from the use of hot radiator air for brick drying, to absorption chilling for trigeneration, to combined cycle turbines.  He’s been there and done that, and his passion for the benefits of cogeneration is contagious.  I’d encourage you to learn firsthand about his passion by attending an upcoming live webcast.  You can register here:

There is a myriad of different ways that new and older industries are finding to make use of combined heat and power.  There are also a myriad of technologies being developed that will ultimately make CHP a more tangible solution.  Many of these will be discussed in the aforementioned webinar.  I hope to see you there.


by Visitor Peter
on ‎02-01-2012 05:17 PM
Hi Nick, There is only one thing better than CHP and that is when someone pays you to take their waste and you convert it into CHP and then either sell it, or use it internally to avoid your own ever increasing energy costs. Peter.
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