Combined heat and power (CHP), also called cogeneration or trigeneration, is the concurrent production of electricity or mechanical power and useful thermal energy (heating and/or cooling) from a single source. CHP plants may use a variety of fuels to generate electricity or power at the point of use, allowing the heat that would normally be lost in the power generation process to be recovered and thus provide reliable electricity, mechanical power, or thermal energy at a factory, university campus, hospital, or commercial building — wherever power is needed.
Because it captures and utilizes waste heat, CHP requires less fuel than equivalent separate heat and power systems to produce the same amount of energy—a 2 for 1 advantage. By placing distributed generation near large loads, CHP can relieve grid congestion, increase energy security for its customers, and eliminate losses that normally occur in the transmission and distribution of electricity from a power plant to the user.
Even though U.S. power plants have been using CHP for decades, today’s energy experts have a new found appreciation for its ability to promote sustainable energy use and achieve a reasonable return on investment.