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U.S. Missing Opportunity to Recycle Vast Amounts of Energy

images.jpgOn Wednesday I attended an event on Green Technology sponsored by the Midwest Council of the American Electronics Association. Vincent Albanese, SVP of Air Pollution Control at Fuel Tech, a company that produces air pollution control devices for large power generators and heavy industry, shared some startling information and insight:

  • Congress is missing opportunities to save energy because of its narrow focus on achieving carbon-emission goals thirty years in the future.
  • Older manufacturing companies have no incentive to clean up their plants because the EPA’s New Source Review rule requires that with any physical changes made, companies have to add all new technology.

New source review sounds good to us environmentalists, but in practice it makes rust belt companies avoid upgrades in their current operations that would save vast amounts of energy, because of the expense involved in completely revamping their entire operations.

The next day NPR aired a story on waste heat capture. ArcolorMittal, a European-based steel company with a plant in East Chicago, Indiana, has placed boilers above its coke ovens to capture the intense heat generated by them — heat which used to be entirely lost. The heat is used to generate steam which turns turbines that create electricity. Further, the NPR story quotes Tom Riley, ArcelorMittal’s manager of utilities:

“‘We can produce almost a hundred megawatts of electrical generation out of the steam that’s produced off the waste heat that we’re capturing here today.’ That’s enough electricity to power more than 60,000 homes, according to Department of Energy Statistics. Recent EPA and DOE studies suggest U.S. industries waste enough heat to generate an estimated 200,000 megawatts of power — nearly 20 percent of what this nation uses. That’s enough electricity to replace up to 400 coal-fired power plants.”

In this, as in so many areas, we are behind our friends in Europe and Japan. According to NPR, Denmark generates nearly 55 percent of its electricity through heat recovery; in the Netherlands and Finland the figure is nearly 40 percent, and in Germany 35 percent. In the U.S. figure is only 8 percent., according to the Department of Energy. While we are pressuring Congress for laws providing incentives for renewable energy, let’s not forget the impact of waste heat recycling, and the legislation that needs to occur to make it more widespread. (Image from Minneapolis Public Radio.)


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Written By

Carol Gulyas is a leader in the renewable energy community in Illinois, where she serves as VP of the Board of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. Recently she co-founded EcoAchievers -- a provider of online education for the renewable energy and sustainable living community. She spent 18 years in the direct marketing industry in New York and Chicago, and is currently a teaching librarian at Columbia College Chicago. Carol grew up in a small town in central Indiana, then lived in the Pacific Northwest, Lima, Peru, and New York City. She is inspired by reducing energy consumption through the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green building technology.

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