The state of Georgia could significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, while creating new jobs and a healthier public, if more of its energy-intensive industries and commercial buildings used combined heat and power (CHP). CHP), according to the latest research from Georgia. Tech School of Public Policy.
The article, available digitally now and in print Dec.15 in the newspaper Applied energy, finds that cogeneration – or cogeneration – could measurably reduce Georgia’s carbon footprint while creating green jobs. Georgia ranks 8e among the 50 states for total net electricity generation and 11e for total carbon dioxide emissions, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.
“There is a huge opportunity for cogeneration to save money for industries and make them more competitive, while reducing air pollution, creating jobs and improving public health,” said lead researcher Marilyn Brown, professor of sustainable systems at Regents and Brook Byers at Georgia Tech School of Public Policy.
Serving the environment, the economy and public health
Research reveals that if Georgia added cogeneration systems to the 9,374 sites suitable for cogeneration, it could reduce Georgia’s carbon emissions by 13%. Bringing cogeneration to just 34 of Georgia’s industrial plants, each with an electrical capacity of 25 megawatts, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2%. The authors of the study, using the modeling tools they have developed, note that this “attainable” level of cogeneration adoption could add 2,000 jobs to the state; full deployment could support 13,000 new jobs.
According to Brown, cogeneration systems can be 85 to 90 percent efficient, compared to 45 to 60 percent efficiency of traditional heating and electricity systems. Cogeneration has advantages over renewable electricity from solar and wind power, which only offers intermittent energy.
Cogeneration technologies co-produce useful electricity for heating and cooling, resulting in ultra-high system efficiencies, cleaner air and more affordable energy. Georgian industries that would benefit from cogeneration include chemical, textile, pulp and paper, and food production. Large commercial buildings, campuses and military bases could also benefit from cogeneration. By using both electricity and heat from a single on-site source, the energy system is more reliable, resilient and efficient.
Cogeneration can meet the same needs with greater efficiency using less overall energy, while reducing peak demand on a region’s utility-operated power grid, Brown explained. In addition, in the event of an outage or disruption to a community’s power grid, businesses with their own on-site power sources can continue to have power.
Calculation of costs and benefits of cogeneration by plant
The research used a database from each industrial site in Georgia to determine who is facilitating or could operate a cogeneration system. They then identified the right type of cogeneration system for plants that do not have one. To help assess whether a cogeneration system was a financially sound investment, they developed a model to estimate the benefits and costs of each cogeneration system, taking into account the cost of installing equipment, operating and maintenance, fuel costs and financing. The result was an estimated “net present value” of each system that reflected the present value of future costs and benefits, Brown explained.
The paper also used data analysis to predict the economic and health benefits of cogeneration for Georgians. Factories converting to cogeneration could increase the state’s clean energy workforce from 2,000 to 13,000 depending on the extent of its adoption, Brown said. Currently, the state has around 2,600 electric vehicle manufacturing jobs and less than 5,000 in the solar industry, according to the 11e Annual national census of solar jobs 2020.
In addition to job growth, the adoption of cogeneration could lead to significant health benefits for the state’s most vulnerable residents, Brown pointed out. “We move more polluting electricity when businesses generate theirs from waste heat,” she noted.
The study estimates the reduction in health costs and ecological damage by 2030 at nearly $ 150 million in the “feasible” scenario for cogeneration, with nearly $ 1 billion in health and ecological benefits. whether every Georgia plant identified in the study adopted cogeneration.
“The improvements in public health are gigantic – that’s a lot of lives saved, plus childhood asthma and heart problems averted,” Brown said.
Georgia Tech’s research was sponsored by Drawdown Georgia, a statewide initiative focused on scaling up high-impact, market-ready climate solutions in Georgia this decade. The organization has identified a roadmap of 20 solutions, including electrical solutions such as cogeneration.
The impact of cogeneration could be dramatic given that power generation accounts for nearly 37% of Georgia’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, according to findings by Brown and other researchers released earlier. this year in the newspaper, Environmental management.
Identification of ideal cogeneration sites
Georgia Tech researchers have identified many different industrial sites in Georgia that could use combined heat and electricity. Ideal locations include established universities or military bases and large industrial sites such as papermaking, chemical sites, and food processing facilities. Georgia’s number one industry is agriculture, with chemicals and wood products among the state’s major manufacturers.
“I find Georgia’s potential to take advantage of existing industrial and commercial facilities to build cogeneration plants very interesting,” said study co-author Valentina Sanmiguel, who graduated with a master’s degree in 2020 from the School of Public Policy in Sustainable Energy and Environmental Management. “I hope that industries and policy makers in Georgia realize the benefits of cogeneration on the environment, economy and society and take steps to implement cogeneration in the state on a larger scale.
Dissecting barriers to adoption
Despite the benefits of cogeneration, there remain barriers to its adoption – on the one hand, setting up these facilities is capital intensive, ranging from tens of millions for a cogeneration plant on campus to hundreds. millions for a large factory on an industrial site. Once built, these facilities require their own labor to operate, Brown explained.
“The cost competitiveness of cogeneration systems depends significantly on two factors – whether they belong to the customer or the utility, and the type of tariff under which they operate,” Brown said.
In the paper, Georgia Tech cited three ways to improve the business case for cogeneration: clean energy portfolio standards, regulatory reform, and financial incentives such as tax credits.
These approaches have worked well in North Carolina, noted Isaac Panzarella, director of the technical assistance partnership for the Southeast Department of Energy and deputy director of technical services at the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at the. ‘North Carolina State University. North Carolina State University, where Panzarella is based, recently installed its second cogeneration facility on campus.
North Carolina, he added, has a policy that supports the use of renewable energy. In addition to solar and wind power, North Carolina has embraced converting waste from pig and poultry feeding operations into renewable energy.
“It took a long time, but ultimately there are more and more of these digester or biomass operations, using cogeneration to generate electricity and thermal energy from this waste,” said he declared.
Although Georgia Tech does not yet operate a cogeneration system, the Campus Sustainability Committee is currently examining options to reduce its energy footprint.
“Georgia Tech seeks to leverage Dr. Brown’s significant research and Georgia Tech faculty in-depth expertise in climate solutions, as we advance the development of a carbon neutral plan at scale. of campus and a 2022 campus master plan, ”said Anne Rogers, Managing Partner, Office of Campus Sustainability. “The Master Campus and Carbon Neutrality Plan will provide a roadmap for implementing sustainable infrastructure solutions to advance Georgia Tech’s strategic goals. “
Brown stressed that Georgia utilities should support cogeneration projects to help the state reduce its carbon footprint.
Another obstacle is the relatively low electricity tariffs in the South East, which offers fewer opportunities to obtain a reasonable return on investment on these systems. Georgian industries wishing to be globally competitive must turn to cogeneration as the rest of the world is adopting renewable and recycled energy at a faster rate than the United States, Brown noted.
“In industries where cogeneration is well understood and where there are solidly established businesses, this is a great investment and a smart way to keep jobs in the community, while also being good for the environment. The barriers are not about technology; they are only about policies. and business models, ”she concluded.