Alexis Madrigal at Wired Science writes about stimulus money being pumped into steam technology. “Take a jet engine,” he writes, “hooked up to some big magnets, add some steam pipes, and what do you have? The comeback of some old-school technologies that could help solve our modern energy problem.”
The idea is simple — generate both electricity and heat in the same place, but the potential benefits are big.
Unlike a traditional electric power plant, which can convert about 40 percent of its fuel into electricity but wastes the rest as heat, these combination plants capture that heat and use it to warm or cool buildings. The efficiency of combined heat and power plants can reach into the 80 percent range. If you hook up that plant to a network of steam pipes and electrical wires, you’ve got the tools to power an entire campus or community.
Combined heat and power, or CHP, could get a a push from possible climate legislation. And this week, the Department of Energy bet $156 million of stimulus funding on these steam-age ideas. It fits with industrial, commercial and municipal interest in reducing fuel costs and environmental footprints.
Read the rest here.