Centralized electrical power generation remains relatively inefficient because significant amounts of the energy produced escapes as heat. At a macro level, the loss is most clearly documented in the yearly Energy Flow Diagram published by Lawrence Livermore National Labs.
Cogeneration, also commonly known as Combined Heat and Power, utilizes the waste heat produced from the combustion of liquid or gaseous fuels in reciprocating engines or gas turbines to serve other non-electrical loads. Direct heat or steam generated in heat exchangers from the waste exhaust, can be used in primary or secondary processes. The overall efficiency of combining electrical power generation and heat recovery typically exceeds eight-five percent.
Cogeneration works well with reciprocating engines and simple and combined cycle aeroderivative gas turbines. When combined with cooling, cogeneration is referred to as Combined Cooling Heat and Power or trigeneration. In Combined Cooling Heat and Power systems, absorption chillers created chilled fluid from the heat for air conditioning, refrigeration or other applications. Carbon dioxide may also be recovered and used in greenhouses or for other applications, further increasing overall system efficiency.
Combined Heat and Power and Combined Cooling Heat and Power plants are ideally suited to serve heating and cooling loads local to the cogeneration facility, while the electrical power produced may be transported over longer distances. Pine Creek Power Systems™ designs and builds renewable-based distributed power systems work very well with Combined Heat and Power and Combined Cooling Heat and Power applications as they greatly increase power plant efficiency through the recovery of waste heat from Thermal Generation.