Renewable Energy and Cogeneration

Most people realize that it would be better for our planet and all its inhabitants if we were to make greater use of renewable energy. But if you ask them why that’s a good idea, they might not get past saying that renewable energy constitutes an endless supply, in contrast to the finite amount of fossil fuels waiting to be unearthed in oceans, rock, and elsewhere.

Other benefits of renewable energy

While that is certainly a valid point, it isn’t the only one. Using renewable energy sources like wind and solar power reduces our carbon footprint, which in turn slows the greenhouse effect as well as overall climate change. It’s also true that once any initial costs for startup have been covered, most renewable energy sources cost next to nothing when used as an energy source. For instance, once solar panels have been installed, the sun’s rays provide all the energy, and once windmills have been installed, the wind itself provides the energy source. For citizens of this country, using more renewable energy also would reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas, and would contribute toward greater homeland security. 

What cogeneration is all about

A process called cogeneration or CHP (combined heat and power) has been gaining considerable attention because it not only generates electricity by using renewable sources, but it also makes use of the heat by-product generated in that process. Rather than wasting the thermal energy created through the conversion of the sun’s rays into electricity, that heat is also put to good use, thereby doubling the useful output from the overall process.

Some of the very first companies and facilities which generated their own electricity were also set up as cogeneration facilities, starting with the very first power plant founded by Thomas Edison in 1882. His Pearl Street Station in Manhattan not only provided electricity for more than 500 customers when it got going, but it also captured the steam by-product and sold it to local manufacturers in the Manhattan business district. Surprisingly, this valuable idea was never really exploited in the following years, and it was left to fairly recent times before its tremendous efficiency was again recognized.

Nowadays, with efficiencies being sought in every process used in industry, cogeneration has come back in a big way, as people realize that the generation of electricity by itself constitutes a major waste of the heat by-product associated with it. Many electrical generation plants now are setup to specifically make use of cogeneration to capture the steam heat produced, and recycle it for heating purposes elsewhere. 

Cogeneration plants utilize biomass from various sources as fuel to generate electricity. In the case of the timber industry, forest biomass and sawdust are burned at these facilities and that heat is used to make electricity. This is yet another way that sustainably managed forests supply high-value renewable resources in North America.

Nature’s Packaging supports the use of sustainably sourced lumber for North America’s shipping and packaging needs. Contact them today here.

Sources used for this article:

Facts on Renewable Energy: https://www.uswitch.com/solar-panels/guides/renewable-energy-facts/

Cogeneration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogeneration