Generating Savings with Cogeneration Power Plants

More than a century after it was first introduced, Sarah Laskow examines the many advantages of using, and reusing, energy in cogeneration power plants, a technology whose time has come.

While cogeneration is not a new technology (Thomas Edison first used it commercially in 1882), institutions across the country, including New York University's Stern School of Business, are increasingly recognizing the benefits of such systems to reliability, sustainability, and their bottom line.

According to Laskow, "The Department of Energy called cogeneration 'one of the most promising options in the US energy efficiency portfolio' and estimated that if these plants accounted for 20 percent of the country's electricity capacity, they would keep as much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as taking 154 million cars off the road would."

Laskow points out that industrial production, such as paper, chemical, and petroleum refining plants, have also recognized the value in cogeneration. "Across the country, cogeneration plants already produce more than 81,000 MW of power, almost doubled the amount of wind power capacity installed."

Full Story: Why Universities Are Building Superefficient Power Plants

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Irvin Dawid's picture
Correspondent

Co-generation may be efficient, but not inherently beneficial

What defines 'co-generation' is that the power is used for more than one operation; it doesn't define the power source, as the article notes with the initial power source for NYU: "Once, the university created energy in this spot by burning oil. In that plant, you could smell the diesel exhaust fumes (in the walkways above the plant)... But this new plant, which opened in 2011, starts by burning natural gas, which produces less air pollution and fewer greenhouse gas emissions".

In CA's Central Valley, one of the most polluted region's in the country due in large part to it's topography, co-generation plants often use the most polluting fuel, coal. Because the electricity production is modest, they can skirt the strict power plant emission rules that prohibit conventional coal plants. Somewhat ironically, the purpose of the co-generation plants may be oil production. See Bakersfield Californian, Power plant looks past coal to sorghum".

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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