What is cogeneration and why is it so important for the energy sector?

What is cogeneration and why is it so important for the energy sector?

What is cogeneration and what advantages does it offer? It is an efficient energy production technique with a low environmental impact. Its peculiarities make it a cutting-edge technology in the energy sector, thanks to a combined system that generates electrical and thermal energy at the same time.

How cogeneration plants work

The concept of cogeneration derives from the production of electricity and heat from a single energy source, the fossil one. This approach rewrites the constraints that govern traditional power and thermal power plants.

An analysis of conventional power plants shows that a large part of the energy injected as fuel, approximately 60 %, is dispersed into the environment in the form of heat. The usable energy is reduced to just 30-35 % of the energy burned.

In cogeneration systems, the proportions change radically; Thanks to the coupling of an engine with an alternator , the chemical energy injected with the fuel is transformed , first into mechanical energy and then into electrical energy. The heat that is not transformed into work is recovered thanks to the cooling of the engine block and its exhaust gases . This energy, normally dispersed in the environment in conventional power plants, is completely recovered at no additional cost.

Cogeneration plants ensure a significant increase in performance, which translates into an increase in energy efficiency that can reach 85-90%.

They also differ from the previous thermal power plants in another important way: cogeneration systems do not require the use of two separate plants, only one is sufficient that is fed by a single source, which can be methane gas, LNG, biogas, biomethane, etc.

The opportunities offered by cogeneration

On an operational level, using cogeneration generates twice as much energy as a traditional power plant. A first positive impact is evident, the high reduction in expenses pertaining to plant engineering. It is not only a benefit to be considered economically but also for the environmental impact.

The value of cogeneration has also been certified by the institutions of the European Union. The European Parliament has noted its usefulness for achieving the purposes of the Kyoto Protocol, giving rise to initiatives aimed at promoting it.

High-efficiency trigeneration and cogeneration

Studies around cogeneration have laid the foundation for further development processes. Trigeneration is in fact a process that generates both thermo-electric energy and cooling energy at the same time. This third new element, chilled water, is used for structures intended for the conditioning or cooling of industrial machinery and/or food treatments.

Cogeneration and trigeneration have many benefits in common, which have a value in terms of economic savings, environmental impact (with the release of lower CO2 emissions) and energy efficiency. A technical evolution that allows us to glimpse new scenarios of sustainable development.