A Competitor Emerges for Solar Panels
Submitted by admin on Thu, 04/05/2012 - 09:07
At the NYT:
AUSTIN, TEXAS — Of all the types of energy embraced by the green community, “combined heat and power” probably has the clunkiest name. But proponents hope that C.H.P. systems, which can be installed in homes, will one day compete with better-known technologies like solar panels.The idea is to capture two forms of energy at once, namely heat and electrical power (which is why the technology is sometimes called cogeneration). Large systems exist on college campuses like the University of Warwick in England and also at hospitals, chemical factories and even airports. These systems use the heat left over from generating electricity to produce either hot water, which circulates through pipes to nearby buildings to provide heat, or steam, which can be used for industrial purposes......Small systems are gaining traction in Japan after the nuclear disaster last year, which led officials to order that nearly all of the country’s reactors be taken offline......Elsewhere in the world, the picture is mixed. In the United States, a basic obstacle is lack of knowledge, said Daniel Bullock, director of the Gulf Coast Clean Energy Application Center, a U.S. Department of Energy group based in a Houston suburb that promotes C.H.P. and related sources of energy.“Most people don’t even know about C.H.P.,” Mr. Bullock said. As a result, he added, “People are willing to pay a lot more money for solar panels than what a C.H.P. system would cost.”The low price of natural gas in the United States — a result of the plentiful supplies created by the hydraulic fracturing boom — may make the systems more appealing, Mr. Bullock said, though homeowners, lacking the negotiating power of large industrial users, may not reap the full benefit of the lower gas prices...