ElectraTherm has commissioned its first Power+ waste heat to power unit in California. The unit generates fuel-free power from the waste heat generated by an existing biomass boiler using the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), thanks to a grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) for combined heat and power applications or prime power generated from biomass.
The unique Organic Rankine Cycle uses fluids that make it possible to recover waste heat from lower temperature applications, like biomass. The recovered low-temperature heat can then be used for beneficial heating or power generation.
“It is great to see the utilization of the vast amounts of renewable biomass available in certain regions in the US and across the globe,” said John Fox, Managing Director of ElectraTherm. “Biomass offers a 24/7 renewable energy source for combined heat and power (CHP) and boiler sites just like this one in Plumas County. I congratulate the CEC for their vision and support for such a project.”
The new installation was developed to tap into waste heat from an existing biomass boiler to provide the Plumas County Health and Human Services Building in Quincy, California, with heat. When heat is not needed, the waste heat captured by the Power+ system will be used to generate electricity, making the system productive in all seasons.
ElectraTherm’s low-temperature ORC heat recovery systems are able to generate power from waste heat ranging from 170-252°F. Captured heat is then used to produce a high pressure vapor that is then allowed to expand, spinning an electric generator to produce power with zero incremental emissions.
After turning the generator, heat for the building is generated by the system when the vapor is condensed back into a liquid. The biomass boiler serves as the source of the waste heat, but it is exciting that ElectraTherm’s process does not require anything else to be combusted to generate power.
Biomass boilers are often contested as a renewable source of energy generation due to the emissions from the combustion process. Proponents advocate that the biomass burned — which in this case is locally-sourced forest cleanup and logging waste — would otherwise naturally biodegrade, releasing their carbon back into the air in the form of methane.
ElectraTherm’s low-temperature heat recovery system was a finalist in the Geothermal Energy Association’s Honors back in 2012, at which time it was using Department of Energy grant funds to hone its solution at a gold mine in Nevada.
ElectraTherm sees strong potential in the US and around the globe for combined heat and power applications, flared gas in wastewater, the oil and gas industry, and even micro geothermal opportunities. ElectraTherm’s Power+ system has been installed in 10 countries to date, with more than 900,000 hours of runtime on them.
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