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Chicago Generates Twice the Energy for a Third of the Carbon

chicago cogeneration energy efficiency carbon emissions[social_buttons]When generating electricity, roughly two-thirds of the energy is lost. Heat is created as a byproduct to spin turbines and later wastes away in cooling towers. Chicago has committed to produce 1.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity by 2010 with a process call combined heat and power or cogeneration, which finds use for the generated heat. This process can be over 90% efficient.

Excess heat can be used for dehumidification, heating water, and process heat. In an ideal world, the electricity and heating loads for the given application are similar. Hospitals, prisons, paper mills, oil refineries, waste water treatment centers, and even large towns can be good candidates for this technology. Your car can even be an example, with waste heat from the engine being used to warm the interior.

Case study: Antioch Community High School

Twelve micro-turbines are powered by landfill gas (LFG), producing .36 megawatt hours of electricity and heat for the 250,000 square foot school. This was the first high school in the country to utilize LFG for this purpose and savings are an estimated $100,000 annually in energy costs.

LFG is pumped from an adjacent landfill, which was previously a superfund site. The annual greenhouse gas reduction is equal to removing 3,000 cars from the road.

cogneration waste heat

Case study: Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

Since 1933, the museum has been one of the largest tourist attractions for the city and now has another noteworthy feature. A 1.75 megawatt cogeneration system was recently installed that produces electricity, heat, and dehumidifies the museum.

The dehumidifiers can treat an impressive 10,000 cubic feet per minute and operate approximately 3,380 hours a year. Because the heating season in Chicago is about 7 months of the year, this function provides value to the museum during the cooling months as well.

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Illustration Credit: Graham Murdoch


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Written By

is passionate about the new green economy and renewable energy. Sarah's experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative. When she can escape the internet vortex, she enjoys playing in the forest, paddling down rivers, or twisting into yoga poses.

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