In her May, 2006 column in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, CV advisory board member, Katherine Ellison, reports on a new technology in the emerging industry of large-scale energy recycling and cogeneration--a technique in which industrial facilities use waste energy to produce heat or electricity.
Why is making better use of waste energy so important to our environment, economy and public health alike?
"Consider," says Ellison, "the US power industry's rate of efficiency has been frozen at 33% for the last 45 years, meaning that for every three lumps of coal we burn, just one lump's worth of energy actually makes it to the consumer. In fact, according to federal government estimates, power plants and industry together waste so much energy that nearly 20% of all US electricity would be saved by recycling the energy now squandered by 18 different industries."
Energy recycling technologies developed by Tom Casten of Primary Energy Ventures simply capture the heat that would otherwise be emitted as a byproduct.
"At a steel mill, for instance," reports Ellison, "Casten collects blast-furnace gas to produce electricity and steam that would otherwise have to be purchased. (This smokestack exhaust is rerouted through a boiler that makes high-pressure steam, which in turn is converted to electricity by means of a steam turbine. It also supplies low-pressure steam, which can be used in the industrial process.) "
Casten is the author of a 1998 book titled "Turning off the heat: why America must double energy efficiency to save mnoney and reduce global warming". Says Ellison, "he calculates that his for-profit company is saving two million tons of CO2 a year in the US alone - equal to planting 1.5 million trees or taking 400,000 cars off the road, while generating a cash flow of more than $80 million."