Many companies are recognizing the wisdom of capturing waste heat and other energy losses that are a byproduct of their industrial processes, and using that waste to provide supplemental power. Systems that recapture previously lost energy can provide a significant economic benefit by offsetting the cost of power purchased through utility companies.
There are many factors to consider when determining the feasibility of using co-generation. Identifying the true cost of building and operating your own co-generation system requires that the feasibility analysis be conducted by a vendor- and product-neutral engineering company with experience in the engineering, design, installation, control, operation and maintenance of co-generation systems.
While the rising cost of electricity is a concern for every business, the real sleeping giant – one that is going to hugely impact the bottom line of companies in the U.S. – is disruption to reliable electrical power from the grid. The number of major electric emergency incidents and disturbances to the U.S. grid are increasing at an astonishing rate.
Data published by the U.S. Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability indicate that the five year average for the number of disturbances has increased 350% from the time periods 2002-2006 to 2010-2014.
The power grid, which could be considered the largest machine on earth, was built after World War II from designs dating back to Thomas Edison, using technology that primarily dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. Its 7,000 power plants are connected by power lines that have a combined total of more than 5 million miles. All are managed by 3,300 utilities serving 150 million customers, according to industry group Edison Electric Institute. The whole system is valued at $876 billion.
Major electric disturbance rates have been steadily increasing and only of a fraction of the funds needed to slow the disturbance rate are being invested into the grid. That means your business is more vulnerable today than at any time in history to being impacted by a major electric disturbance.
If your business has a consistent need for electrical power and heat, a natural gas engine can be one way of reducing your vulnerability to major electric disturbances. With a natural gas cost of $6/mcf and an electricity cost of $0.08/kwh, a co-generation system using a natural gas engine has a typical payback of 5 years or less. The key is matching the electrical load to the heating load.
If your business has a process that utilizes low pressure saturated steam of 20,000 lb/hr @ 15 psig or less, and your boilers are rated for @ 150 psig or higher, a co-generation system using a steam turbine/generator set as a pressure reducing station could work very well to reduce your electrical power cost. With an electric cost of $0.08/kwh, payback for a co-generation system using a turbine/generator set is 3-5 years. The key is having a consistent requirement for electrical power and low pressure steam of 20,000 lb/hr or more.
If you are in the wood products manufacturing industry and produce 40 tons/day of dry wood waste, with a process that utilizes low pressure saturated steam of 20,000 lb/hr @ 15 psig or less, and your boilers are rated for @ 225 psig or higher, a co-generation system using a wood fired boiler and a steam turbine/generator set as a pressure reducing station could work very well to reduce your vulnerability to major electric disturbances. With an electric cost of $0.08/kwh, a natural gas cost of $6/mcf and wood waste cost of $15/ton, a payback for a co-generation system using a wood fired boiler and steam turbine/generator set is 6-8 years. The key is having a consistent wood waste stream, electrical power consumption and low pressure steam of 20,000 lb/hr or more.