Reports highlight benefits of CHP technologies

By Erin Voegele
A report issued by Tennessee-based Oak Ridge National Laboratory in December names combined-heat-and-power (CHP) solutions as one of the most promising options to increase energy efficiency in the United States.

CHP technologies, also known as cogeneration technologies, increase energy efficiency through the capture and utilization of waste heat produced during the power generation process. This allows CHP systems to use less fuel than would be required to operate separate heating and power systems.

Despite the fact that CHP is a proven and effective source of energy, the report, titled "Combined Heat and Power: Effective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future," said CHP technologies remain one of the most underutilized sources of energy efficiency in the country.

According to a separate report issued by Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute in December, two-thirds of the energy contained in the fuel used by most power plants is lost in one of two ways: through the production of waste heat or through the power transmission process. The report, titled "Low-Carbon Energy: A Roadmap," estimates that the waste heat lost annually at U.S. power plants contains enough energy to power Japan for a year.

Worldwatch Institute's report estimates that CHP systems could increase the energy efficiency of power generation from 33 percent to up to 90 percent. While some countries, such as Finland and Denmark, obtain 40 percent to 50 percent of their electricity from CHP systems, only 8 percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated by CHP technology.

ORNL's report detailed ways CHP can benefit the United States. Increased energy efficiency would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lead to lower business costs and the development of green-collar jobs. In addition, most of the energy produced through CHP is used locally, which reduces grid congestion and limits the amount of energy lost in the power transmission process.

Virtual Media Holdings Inc. is one company with plans to move forward with the installation of CHP technology in the U.S. The company recently acquired Biomass Secure Power Inc., a company that develops biomass-fueled cogeneration power plants.

In December, the company announced its biomass cogeneration system had been approved by the California South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is the pollution control agency for Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, as well as Los Angeles. According to Biomass Secure Power Chief Executive Officer Jim Carroll, details of his company's plan to construct a cogeneration facility in California will be released once the project is finalized.