Energy IQ: What is cogeneration, its benefits and how does cogeneration work

Energy IQ: cogeneration
Energy IQ: What is cogeneration, its benefits and how does cogeneration work

Nearly 75% of all energy we produce is estimated to be dissipated as waste heat. This includes the heat generated by your car’s engine, light bulbs at home and other devices that need energy to operate. 

Waste heat is also generated while producing electricity, the cornerstone of our modern lives. Fortunately, technologies such as cogeneration and trigeneration help us reduce this waste heat. 

Let’s cover common questions and answers about cogeneration and trigeneration to boost your energy IQ.

What is cogeneration and what is trigeneration?

Cogeneration, also known as combined heat and power (CHP), is the simultaneous production of multiple forms of energy from a single fuel source 1. Thermal (heat) and electrical (electricity) are usually the two forms of energy produced in many types of cogeneration applications. 

Trigeneration is usually the simultaneous production of cooling in addition to heat and electricity through a single fuel source. Trigeneration is also known as combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP). Some trigeneration applications produce electricity and recover heat while simultaneously utilizing the carbon dioxide (CO2) from the exhaust. The CO2 is used to aid in photosynthesis of plants in greenhouses or carbonation of beverages in bottling facilities.

Both cogeneration and trigeneration applications are often considered as distributed generation applications. They are usually at or near the facilities they power, unlike traditional power plants that are located centrally and experience energy losses due to transmission and distribution.

How does cogeneration work?

The cogeneration system is built around a prime mover, which could be a reciprocating engine, turbine or fuel cells. This prime mover, coupled with an alternator where applicable, converts the chemical energy stored in the fuel to electrical energy. Natural gas is often used as the fuel, yet diesel and hydrogen could also be used. 

This process of producing electricity also creates heat. The heat is then captured and utilized for useful purposes, instead of being released to the atmosphere as wasted heat. Heating, cooling, hot water and industrial uses are some of the ways this heat is used productively.

What are the benefits and advantages of cogeneration?

Cogeneration brings benefits both to the environment and to the businesses’ bottom lines. Its high efficiency in converting the energy in the original fuel into useful energy is the foundation of these advantages. 

Cogeneration delivers high efficiency

A typical cogeneration application converts 70-90% of the energy in the original fuel to useful energy. In comparison, less than a third of the energy in the original fuel is converted into useful energy in a traditional grid system with central power plants.  

  • Sustainability: Higher efficiency means less fuel to use. Given the world's electricity continues to be produced primarily by fossil fuels, less fuel usually reduces the facility’s carbon footprint. A secondary environmental benefit of cogeneration is the reduction of excess heat released to the atmosphere. 
  • Economics: Consuming less fuel to get the job done delivers lower energy costs and better financial performance. These operational savings could compensate for the initial investment needed for a cogeneration system within the first couple of years.  

Which applications and industries can benefit from adopting cogeneration?

Several factors influence the adoption of cogeneration across industries. The cost of procuring energy and the profile of the facility’s thermal needs are two of these factors.

When it comes to different businesses, some leverage cogeneration more than others. 

  • Healthcare facilities: Nursing homes and hospitals feature sophisticated air management systems to improve the quality of care. These facilities often need continuous heating or cooling, making cogeneration an ideal solution. 
  • Greenhouses: The continuous need for heat and carbon dioxide to grow produce is a key reason for many greenhouse facilities to deploy cogeneration applications. 
  • Universities and colleges: These institutions tend to have large facilities that are used throughout the year and need significant amounts of electricity and heating.  

Many other applications ranging from chemical plants and manufacturing facilities to hotels also deploy cogeneration to improve their financial performance and to reduce their environmental footprint.

Cummins’ involvement in cogeneration and trigeneration

Cummins Inc. is the leading provider of diesel and natural gas power generators, digital solutions and control systems. Businesses ranging from greenhouses to healthcare facilities have partnered with Cummins to minimize their carbon footprint and to improve their financial performance with cogeneration applications. Cummins’ recent investments in energy storage, fuel cells, high efficiency gas generators and advanced microgrid control technologies have boosted its capability to tailor energy solutions for various cogeneration and trigeneration applications. 

Sign up below for Energy IQ to receive energy focused insights in markets ranging from data centers and healthcare facilities to manufacturing facilities, and everything beyond. To learn more about cogeneration and trigeneration power solutions Cummins offers, visit our webpage.

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References: 

1 Hamilton, J. (n.d.). Evaluating Cogeneration for Your Facility [Bulletin]. Cummins Inc. Retrieved from https://www.cummins.com
 

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Aytek Yuksel - Cummins Inc

Aytek Yuksel

Aytek Yuksel is the Content Marketing Leader for Cummins Inc., with a focus on Power Systems markets. Aytek joined the Company in 2008. Since then, he has worked in several marketing roles and now brings you the learnings from our key markets ranging from industrial to residential markets. Aytek lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and two kids.

After 100 years, caring never gets old

employees

This year, Cummins Inc. celebrates 100 years in Power Generation. It all started with the incorporation of Onan Corporation in 1920 – a family owned business founded by David W. Onan.

"Since the beginning, values have played a key role within Onan Corporation. In fact, it has been a combination of values, people and our innovation – strikingly consistent with Cummins’ own 100 years history - that helped the small business in Minnesota (U.S.) become a global industry leader," stated Alex Savelli, Executive Director of Cummins Power Generation.

Today, many at Cummins make a lasting and positive difference by embracing a set of values: Caring, Diversity & Inclusion, Integrity, Excellence, and Teamwork. Let’s look at three examples from our 100-year history on how teamwork, through partnerships with other like-minded stakeholders, can amplify the impact of caring. 

Making lives better by using assistive technologies for individuals with disabilities

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute focuses on helping people with disabilities and people with chronic medical conditions. A critical element of the rehabilitation journey is assistive technologies, products used to improve functional capabilities of people with disabilities.

The partnership between Cummins and Courage Kenny began more than a decade ago, and volunteers from Cummins continue to put their engineering and technical skills into work at the facility. Volunteers periodically attend sessions to adapt, customize and invent mechanical and electronic devices for children and adults with disabilities. You can read how Dempsey Becker, a five-year-old boy, relies on these assistive technologies as a part of his occupational therapy at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.

In recent years, the effort has expanded beyond Minnesota. More Cummins teams around the world leverage these assistive technology designs, partner with local organizations and serve individuals with disabilities. 

Increasing the safety of military personnel with energy technologies

Military personnel put their lives at risk to defend our way of life, and the efforts focused on improving their safety are great demonstrations of caring.  

The partnership between Cummins and the U.S. military expands over eight decades. In fact, as Allied Forces fought with Axis Forces through the Second World War, more than half of their power generators were supplied by Cummins.

Employees of Onan Corporation winding armature at University Plant, Minnesota, U.S. in 1942 , during World War II.
Employees of Onan Corporation winding armature at University Plant, Minnesota, U.S. in 1942, during World War II. 

More recently, new technologies developed by Cummins continue to help save lives of military personnel. For instance, Cummins’ Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source (AMMPS) generator sets require less fuel than their predecessors; this increases the safety of troops in combat, because fewer fuel transport runs are required. When AMMPS is used together with energy storage and solar arrays to create a hybrid system, fuel economy and system reliability further improves. These improvements positively impact the safety and well-being of U.S. military professionals in the field. 

Bringing prosperity to a rural village through energy access

Residents of Padarwadi, India rely on agriculture for their primary income, as many other villages across India. For years, villagers lacked access to electricity needed to run a small mill. Villagers made frequent trips to the nearest town, through mountainous terrain to get their paddy dehusked, or spent hours doing the labor-intensive work of grinding and dehusking.

In 2010, Cummins partnered with the village to install a generator set to power a small mill. During a recent visit, the project team received first-hand feedback from the residents on how access to energy has changed their lives over the years. These include tangible gains such as increased income for the village, and intangible gains such not needing to spend hours doing the laborious task of rice grinding and dehusking anymore; this increased standard of living led to improved schooling of children too.  

"As the world keeps evolving, we continue to live our Values and Mission: Making people’s lives better by powering a more prosperous world. I’m confident this will continue to serve us well as a strong foundation for the next 100 years,” added Savelli.

 

Sign up below for Energy IQ to periodically receive energy insights. To learn more about power solutions Cummins offers, visit our webpage

Think your friends and colleagues would like this story? Share on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Raise Your Energy IQ

Grow professionally with energy trends and insights delivered to your inbox. Read about energy technologies and trends on our Energy IQ Hub.

Aytek Yuksel - Cummins Inc

Aytek Yuksel

Aytek Yuksel is the Content Marketing Leader for Cummins Inc., with a focus on Power Systems markets. Aytek joined the Company in 2008. Since then, he has worked in several marketing roles and now brings you the learnings from our key markets ranging from industrial to residential markets. Aytek lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and two kids.

Aptos, California (USA) home equipped with Cummins generator is prepared for natural disasters and planned power outages

couple looking at their home

A remote California town facing numerous threats to utility interruption leads a home owner to depend on Cummins power to protect what matters most with a home generator. 

Aptos, California (USA) is a beautiful beach community located one mountain range south from Silicon Valley. In a relatively remote area, Bob Devincenzi’s home sits on five acres of property. Due to its secluded nature, his residence has limited access to public services other than electricity and cellular. In addition to being sequestered, Devincenzi lives near a fault line as well as is in a designated wildfire area. 

For a while, Devincenzi used a portable generator to keep a few household essentials running during an outage. He would transport the unit in and out of the house while also navigating the hassle of various extension cords traipsed throughout their home. While there is certainly a place for portable generators, Divencenzi decided his Aptos residence was no longer one of them. 

Familiarizing himself with whole house generators, Devincenzi began learning about Cummins home and small business products. With an engineering background, he was primed to the Cummins brand and reputation. Having been involved with Cummins from a business perspective, he said he gravitated toward the company for his home generator because he associated the name with high quality, long-lasting and durable products. 

Nearing his decision, Devincenzi began to search for a local company that could support the generator installation at his home. Upon learning about Day Electric’s operation in Pacific Grove, California (USA), he was impressed to learn that this dealership had not only been responsible for various home generator installs, but also supplied power units for substantial businesses in the area. 

Now confident with a qualified dealer and a dependable manufacturer, Devincenzi decided on a 20kW Cumminshome generator home generator to protect his home. Devincenzi and Day Electric completed the project in tandem which included the install of a dedicated propane fuel tank for the generator. When reflecting on his experience with Day Electric, Devincenzi said, “They are fabulous. They are capable and responsive, and they are great ambassadors for the product.”

Divencenzi has now had his Cummins home generator for three years. He said it has been used five or six times and has “kicked on just as advertised, ran exactly as expected and consumed fuel exactly as the specifications would indicate.” He also noted the intuitive nature of the user panel, the automatic exercise mode and remote capability. 

In summation of his loyalty to Cummins, Divencenzi wanted to acknowledge the alternative options available to him when he was selecting his Cummins product. With a complete solar array on his roof that has capability to provide more power than his home requires, he considered an alternative battery solution to support the backup power of his home in case of an outage. Ultimately, he decided against it because solar power can vary due with weather and season.

I picked Cummins because it is 100% dependable and predictable. I know exactly the power I can get out of it, nothing is left to chance and that’s all I need.” 

Learn more about Cummins home generators

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Cummins dealer continues to look toward the future

Richard Parker, part owner and operator of Parker Power Generators, is no stranger to the generator business. In 1967, Richard joined the United States Navy where he was able to train on various engines and generators during his enlistment. After four years in the US Navy, Richard went to work for a local Cummins distributor as a service manager in Texas where he received additional on the job training and experience on Cummins engines and generators. In 1984, after 13 years of working for someone else, Richard and his wife, Wanda, decided to branch out on their own and open Parker Power Generators. 

Parker Power Generators

In 1996, the Parkers expanded and purchased a new building for their growing business. As the years passed, their son, Nathan Parker has since joined the family business as a road service technician. Nathan’s wife, Misty, also plays an active role in the company, learning about the day to day business operations. Richard and Wanda’s hope for the future is that Nathan and Misty continue to run the family business together just as they have.

Parker Power specializes in the sale and service of generators. One of their biggest sellers are the new generator installedCummins portable generators. The three portable Cummins generators were quietly launched in 2019 and are quickly picking up momentum in the portable generator market. Along with the generators, the company is also certified to complete any warranty work as it pertains to Cummins products. “It has been a pretty good experience and as time goes on it hasn’t changed. We like the product and it’s a good product. We have a really good rep and we are satisfied,” said Wanda Parker. 

Like many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic did impact the company for a short time. “COVID…has made us very cautious and we had the doors locked for about two months. We sat a table outside to still service our customers. We only recently opened our waiting room,” says Wanda. Even through the pandemic and limited operations, the company never fully stopped servicing their customers. Many of their customers are essential workers and businesses consisting of grocery stores, law enforcement, and medical facilities. “We wear the appropriate PPE – masks and gloves during calls,” states Wanda, “We are essential.” 

No matter what the remainder of the year looks like, Parker Power Generators is in it for the long haul as a Cummins dealer and service provider. Future plans consist of, expanding their product and service offerings to include the larger Cummins generators. 

Jill Weiler headshot

Jill Weiler

Jill Weiler is a Marketing and Communications Senior Specialist for the DBU. She joined the company in 2012, and has served in a variety of roles including Visual Communications as an associate producer and project manager. Prior to joining Cummins, Jill served in the United States Army for 4 years.

Harvesting power the Cummins way

Varegro of Belgium

Greenhouse world first for HSK78G gas generator

Varegro of Belgium is using a Cummins HSK78G gas generator to power its commercial greenhouse in Oostrozebeke, West Flanders, making it the first in the world to be installed in a greenhouse environment.

Varegro, which has been harvesting for more than 15 years to become one of the largest export companies in Belgium, selected the newly launched HSK78G to provide Combined Heat and Power (CHP) to the energy-intensive facility.

The CHP installation provides thermal and electrical energy as well as COfor a greenhouse premises totaling 40,000 sqm.

The HSK78G generator offers an electrical efficiency of 44.2%, which leads to greater fuel savings by turning waste heat into productive energy. In an energy-intensive greenhouse environment its total return is greater than 100% and Varegro can use this reliable power source to flexibly meet its own energy needs. The electricity that is produced can be used for lighting, the heat produced by the genset for heating and the exhaust gasses are cleaned and used for CO2 fertilization.

The surplus of the electricity that is being produced at the facility is then sold back in a flexible manner to the grid network, which offers greater financial savings for Varegro.HSK78G gas generator

Stefan De Wit, Project Manager, Cummins Power Generation, said: “The CHP installation with the HSK78G gas genset at the facility is designed to provide reliable power, regardless of the quality of the natural gas source or the climate. With the addition of the exhaust gas heat exchangers and heat condensers, low and high temperatures can be recuperated achieving a total efficiency of 103%.

“It is a custom-made CHP solution offering maximum efficiency with the greatest possible cost savings to the customer.”

Varegro’s Carlo Van Hove said: “Total efficiency design and process knowledge were the deciding factors when choosing this solution from Cummins. The benefits of this cogeneration unit will deliver higher efficiency compared to previous installation, and thanks to its heat buffer, we can also influence the variable energy market and support the stability of the network.”

Cummins is responsible for the project’s full maintenance which is critical for the longevity of the CHP installation. Highly qualified technicians and specialists working around the clock ensure the installation runs continuously with limited downtime therefore increasing total profitability.

To find out more about the HSK78G gas generator series visit cummins.tech/hsk78launch

The Cummins Magazine

This story features in our Cummins Magazine, click here to request a printed copy.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

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