Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cogeneration Reduces Grid Purchases

In the steel-making plant of Essar Steel Algoma, a new gas-fired cogeneration plant is reducing the load on the grid to the tune of 70 MW and at a cost of only $135 million. This is just one example of a theme I hit from time to time, that as power prices increase, industries will build their own power plants, or self-generate and reduce their purchases from the utility-supplied electrical grid. This happens at much smaller levels, also.

Here is an 8.5 megawatt cogeneration plant in a Las Vegas hotel, which could easily be duplicated at 1000 hotels or more across the country. Hotels have a need for electricity and hot water for their guests and restaurants, and are ideal for cogeneration from natural gas.

Another project is a tri-fecta, with a 12 MW gas-fired cogeneration plant installed in a tomato-growing greenhouse. The greenhouse utilizes the heat and CO2 from the engine exhaust, and electric power is sold to the grid.

With all this cogeneration activity today, with low electric prices, one can only imagine the flurry of activity when (or if) nuclear power plants are built again and severely raise power rates, and the costs of Global Warming legislation such as California's AB 32 are realized. Self-generation is not a fad, not a toy, and not a pipe dream as those in the nuclear power industry insist. Engineers have worked diligently and creatively for decades to provide robust, safe, clean, and economic alternatives to high power prices caused by poorly-considered nuclear power plants with their $20-plus billion price tags and decade or longer construction times. Imagine the surprise on the utility executives' faces when the new nuclear power plant is finally started up after 10 to 12 years, at a cost over-run of 200 or even 400 percent, and their customers say "No thanks, I have all the electric power I need at one-fourth the cost of yours."

There is no need for them to act surprised. This is exactly what happened in Louisiana just a couple of decades ago. It is known as the Nuclear Death Spiral.


miggs said...

You're right that the potential with cogeneration is staggering -- not just in individual instances, but overall. I'm associated with Recycled Energy Development, a company that works on this issue. And EPA and DOE estimates suggest there's enough recoverable waste energy to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in the U.S. That's as much as if we took every passenger vehicle off the road. Meanwhile, costs would fall due to increased efficiency. We should be doing much more of this.

Ellie in Belfast said...

Definately the way forward!

You are used to refineries - well, here's how British Sugar's has moved to efficiency, including growing tomatoes: