Maine may be a prime candidate for emerging technologies associated with “micro combined heat and power production,” or microCHP.
That’s because Maine, and the rest of New England, hit several criteria considered key to achieving the greater efficiencies and lower costs through microCHP compared with conventional power production.
Eric Burgis, director of commercial markets at the Energy Solutions Center in Washington, D.C., provided a review of the status of microCHP technologies during an Oct. 20 webinar on emerging markets for combined heat and power, hosted by E2Tech in Portland.
Combined heat and power is defined as the use of on-site power generation to provide both electricity and heat at the same time, from a single fuel source such as biomass or natural gas.
The technology compares with conventional power sourcing through dual systems, such as purchasing electricity from the grid and producing heat with a furnace or boiler.
The CHP process is considered more fuel-efficient than a conventional power plant because otherwise-wasted heat can be used in a productive manner such as space heating. Onsite production is considered to increase energy security and resiliency because it reduces the need to purchase electricity from the distribution grid.
In 2017, the University of Maine was designated to lead one of 10 U.S. Department of Energy CHP technical assistance partnerships dedicated to promotion, technical support and deployment of cost-effective and efficient CHP technologies throughout the nation. UMaine leads the New England partnership.
“MicroCHP” cogeneration systems, which are less than or equal to 50 kilowatts in size, operate on a smaller scale than CHP cogeneration systems. MicroCHP systems, used for residential and smaller commercial applications, generate heat as the main output and electricity as the byproduct. Larger CHP systems, for large-scale use, generate electricity as the main output and heat as a byproduct.