As part of its efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of energy production and use, the U.K  has engaged in outreach and technical assistance to broadly increase understanding and use of highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) applications through the efforts of the CHP Partnership program. Over the past three years, market and policy forces have driven strong interest and early implementation of new biomass-fueled CHP projects by Partners and other clean energy stakeholders. In the interest of continuing the trend toward greater utilization of biomass fuels to power clean, efficient electricity and thermal energy generation, this document provides resource owners, facility managers, developers, policymakers, and other interested parties with a detailed technology characterization of biomass CHP systems.

The report reviews the technical and economic characterization of biomass resources, biomass preparation, energy conversion technologies, power production systems, and complete integrated systems. There are many potential advantages to using biomass instead of fossil fuels for meeting energy needs. Specific benefits depend upon the intended use and fuel source, but often include: greenhouse gas and other air pollutant reductions, energy cost savings, local economic development, waste reduction, and the security of a domestic fuel supply. In addition, biomass is more flexible (e.g., can generate both power and heat) and reliable (as a non-intermittent resource) as an energy option than many other sources of renewable energy.

Biomass fuels are typically used most efficiently and beneficially when generating both power and heat through CHP. CHP, also known as cogeneration, is the simultaneous production of electricity and heat from a single fuel source, such as biomass/biogas, natural gas, coal, or oil. CHP provides:

  • Distributed generation of electrical and/or mechanical power.
  • Waste-heat recovery for heating, cooling, or process applications.
  • Seamless system integration for a variety of technologies, thermal applications, and fuel types into existing building infrastructure. CHP is not a single technology, but an integrated energy system that can be modified depending on the needs of the energy end user.

The hallmark of all well-designed CHP systems is an increase in the efficiency of fuel use. By using waste heat recovery technology to capture a significant proportion of heat created as a byproduct in electricity generation, CHP systems typically achieve total system efficiencies of 60 to 80 percent for producing electricity and thermal energy. These efficiency gains improve the economics of using biomass fuels, as well as produce other environmental benefits. More than 60 percent of current biomass-powered electricity generation in the United States is in the form of CHP.

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