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Current Status of Residential Cogeneration

November/December 2009
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2009 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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November 01, 2009
Almost all of our electricity is produced by large centralized power plants that supply power to the electric grid. Only one-third of the fuel energy supplied to these coal and natural gas power plants is delivered to homes and businesses as electricity. The remaining two-thirds is discharged as waste heat into the environment. A number of commercial industries have had their own power plants installed on-site so that they can utilize this waste heat while providing their own electricity. These combined heat and power cogeneration plants have an overall efficiency of up to 90% as compared to 33% for conventional centralized power plants, resulting in enormous energy savings. These on-site industrial cogeneration plants are so successful that they currently supply 7% of the power in the United States—far more than all the power produced by all of the renewable solar and wind systems combined. In 1988, the Gas Research Institute, working with the Kohler Engine Generator Company, developed a natural gas-fueled residential cogeneration system that produced 5 kW of electricity and 45,500 Btu per hour of heat, for an overall efficiency of up to 90%. This showed that the technology could be scaled down for single-family homes, thereby slashing energy costs for homeowners. Several states ...

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