The Most Efficient Power Plants have no future?

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

But what a university sees as a no-brainer cost reduction, a utility often sees as a threat to sales.
Not in the “clean coal or cap’n trade plans” From forbes.com
 
In your standard fossil-fuel power plant, the inefficiency begins when the coal or gas ignites. In some plants, as little as 30% of the energy created ends up in the power grid. The rest, in the form of heat, blows out the smokestacks. If one could build power plants that used 80% of the energy instead, everyone would be rushing to do so, right?
 
Not so fast. Yes, such plants exist, but advocates say potential customers are staying away. Why? Utilities and regulators are scaring them off.
 
The 80% efficiency seen in combined heat and power plants, known as cogeneration plants, is ideally suited for large institutions–universities, hospitals, airports–that have extensive electricity and thermal energy demand in a concentrated area. Rather than letting the heat escape, a cogeneration plant uses the excess energy to power a heating and cooling system.
 
“It’s not uncommon for utilities, when they hear ‘cogeneration,’ to bring out the white blood cells to inoculate it from happening,” says Rob Thornton, president of the International District Energy Association.
 
The potential efficiency savings from such projects are immense, says Neal Elliott, an expert on combined heat and power (CHP) systems with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
 
“Quads of energy savings could be realized by fully deploying this across the country,” Elliott says. To put that in perspective, the Energy Information Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates the country annually consumes 100 quads (lingo for quadrillion British thermal units)y. By that same EIA data, the sum total of all hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind and biomass power, for the entire country, was only 6.8 quads in 2007.
 
Not all utilities are hostile to the plants, and many are jockeying to be the ones that build CHP plants for their clients. “Every utility is regulated mostly by its state,” says Ed Legge, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, the Washington lobbying group that represents the utility industry. “Whether it can recover costs for efficiency programs is regulated by the states.”
 
Read more via forbes.com
 
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