Montana Combined Heat & Power
Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is an established technology sometimes referred to as cogeneration. In the process, electricity is generated very close to a site where the power is used. Residual heat from the generation is also used at the site, oftentimes for heating, cooling or for industrial or manufacturing processes.
Many industries across the country employ CHP. In fact, about 10 percent of energy use in the U.S. is derived from CHP. Nonetheless, a great deal of energy is lost as unrecovered, or waste heat. The federal Department of Energy would like to advance these efficient technologies.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Catalog of CHP Technologies in 2008. That publication notes that traditional industrial energy sources offer efficiencies in the 45 to 50 percent range, while CHP applications can boost efficiencies up to 75 percent or more.
The U.S. Department of Energy offers a website devoted to "distributed energy" with an emphasis on CHP.
Accelerated CHP has proven its effectiveness and holds promise for the future — as an environmental solution significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions through greater energy efficiency; as a competitive business solution that increases efficiency, reduces business costs, and creates green-collar jobs; and as a technology deployable throughout the United States. CHP also holds promise as an infrastructure modernization solution that may help grid congestion and improve energy security.
In Montana, interest in CHP has grown along with the millions of acres of beetle-killed woodlands. Lumber mills are good candidates for CHP installations in our region due to the large quantities of available biomass feed stock, high on-site energy use, and heat-using industrial processes. Excess generated electricity can be distributed over the grid where it is eligible for Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). Regional associations such as the Northwest Clean Energy Application Center have emerged to promote CHP.
Recently, the Montana Department of Commerce, NorthWestern Energy (NWE) and others supported a business feasibility study into sustainable biomass for the western portion of the state. The report examined the feasibility of developing CHP at lumber plants and sawmills in western Montana. These facilities are envisioned to reduce energy load at the mills while providing excess generation capacity to NWE's mandated renewable energy portfolio.