Cogeneration from Rapeseed Oil Converts Sunlight Into Electricity and Thermal Energy

Cogeneration has the advantage that it can produce two forms of energy - electricity and heat. Consequently these units are also referred to as combined heat and power.

Cogeneration is one of the oldest and most established of the renewable energy technologies. The technology is mature, reliable and efficient. The USA produces 8% of its electricity and the European Union generates 11% of its electricity using cogeneration.

In the U.S., more than 86% of electricity is generated from steam turbines. In electric generation, steam is typically condensed at the end of its expansion cycle, and returned to the boiler for re-use.

However in cogeneration, the heat (whether it is steam or hot air) is piped into buildings through a district heating system to provide heat energy after its use in the electric generation cycle. The world's biggest steam system is the New York City steam system which pumps steam into 100,000 buildings in Manhattan from seven cogeneration plants.

Cogeneration in Germany

Germany estimates that over 50% of the country’s total electricity demand could be provided through cogeneration.

So far Germany has set a target to double its electricity produced from cogeneration from 12.5% to 25% of the country’s electricity by 2020 and has passed supporting legislation, the most recent being the new EEG guidelines published on August 5, 2011.

As a result - there are excellent opportunities for investors in Renewable Energy to own and operate cogeneration units in Germany - especially as under the German incentive program - there are excellent possiblities for the small and mid-sized cogeneration projects.

While most CHP units worldwide use natural gas as the primary fuel source – CHP units currently being installed in Germany in 2011 are using rapeseed / canola oil as the primary fuel.

NOTE: Effective 2012 - Germany requires all cogeneration units to use biogas.

Recover Solar Energy Stored in Plants

When most people think of solar energy - they think of solar panels or concentrated solar power.

True - solar panels and CPV are the most direct ways to turn sunlight into electricity. However, they are not the only way and not always the most profitable way.

Another way to do this is to grow plants that convert sunlight into high energy plants that can be harvested and the energy extracted into a portable form such as rapeseed oil or as it is sometimes known, canola oil.

The oil can then be used to transport this stored solar energy and when burned in a fuel-efficient engine connected to a generator the energy, can be released / converted to electricity. As the fuel is burned heat is also produced, and this thermal energy can be used for a variety of purposes.

Alternatively, the plant waste or even animal waste can be left to ferment and the by-product biogas can be further reduced into biomethane and even be piped through natural gas pipelines.

Producing Electricity from Rapeseed Oil or Biogas

A small (e.g., 150 kw) cogeneration unit is ideally suited to produce reasonable amounts of electricity and heat by burning either rapeseed oil or biogas ... and also selling the heat.

In fact the economics of doing this in Germany are quite lucrative and advantageous, given that the sales price for the electricity produced is set by the German government in their EEG guidelines.

For example, baased on 8,300 hours of operating time per year, one of our 150 kw CHP units will produce 150 kW electric and 135 kw thermal energy per hour, or

1,245,000 kwh electricity per year 1,120,500 kwh thermal energy per year

Only about 25.3 liters of rapeseed oil are required per hour to do this.

Compare this level of production to a 470 kWp installation in Southern Italy (insolation level of 1,300) that produces 609,000 kwh of electricity per year.

Think of these rapeseed fueled CHP units as an organic / mechanical system that produces electricity and heat. The results are similar to a system of solar panels and a solar thermal system working together, and just like solar panels and solar thermal systems can complement each other – a cogeneration system and a solar panel system make a great combination … producing power 24/7.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

In the majority of energy applications, energy is required in multiple forms. These energy forms typically include some combination of: heating, ventilation, air conditioning, mechanical energy and electric power.

Often, these additional forms of energy are produced by a heat engine, running on a source of high-temperature heat. A heat engine can never have perfect efficiency, according to the second law of thermodynamics, therefore a heat engine will always produce a surplus of low-temperature heat.

This heat is useful for the majority of heating applications. However, it is not practical to transport heat energy over long distances.

To make efficient use of energy, the "waste heat" must be used purposefully. Since it is practical to transport electricity, but not always practical to transport waste heat, an energy efficient system must generate electricity near locations where the waste heat can be put to good use. This is known as a combined heat and power (CHP) system, or "cogeneration".

Rapeseed Fueled CHP Units Qualify for Feed in Tariffs

Because biofuel is a clean and renewable energy - the electricity produced from qualifying cogeneration units (i.e., those that use rapeseed oil as a fuel and also deliver thermal energy) are eligible under Feed in Tariff programs in various countries, such as Germany (where we offer turnkey JV investment opportunities).

For example, currently in Germany the electricity produced from our 150 kWp cogeneration units earns €0.1926 per kwh produced (if installed and connected to the grid in 2011).

The thermal energy produced qualifies for another €0.0294 / kWth, plus can be sold on a long term basis for round €0.06 per kwh.

For More Information about Small Business Opportunities

With more than 100 units installed to date in Germany, guaranteed high rates of income because of the German Feed in Tariff laws, and 100% performance guarantee from the manufacturer for 20 years (with preventative maintenance and full replacement of any parts during that time), these units produce very high levels of return.

By using financial leverage (through a combination of equipment leasing and long term low interest loans), investors can earn pre-tax returns that are several times higher that what is possible from solar projects of the same size - based on current market conditions.

For more information about these units and the associated business opportunity to make high rates of return go to Small Business Opportunites: Cogeneration

To Quickly Find More Valuable Information

To find more valuable information or advice about the material covered in this post or about any other related or specific subject - use our built-in / Google Powered site searching tool below. Just type in a few key words or phrases to search this website, our solar news and health blogs for related articles.

More than 600 articles have been published to date.

Custom Search

Back from this page about the Cogeneration to our home page