If you’ve been researching heating and electrical systems for a while, you’ll know that there are a multitude of technical terms and jargon. Breaking these down into digestible chunks of information is vital, in our minds, to ensure that you understand what options you have available. In this guide, we’ll be delving into trigeneration – a brand of combined heat and power technology that integrates cooling into the mix too.

What is Trigeneration (CCHP)?

CHP technology is often referred to as co-generation because it produces two forms of energy – heat and electricity. Trigeneration takes this one step further. It is also known as combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) and does just that. The system produces electricity as it does in a standard CHP unit. However, once the waste thermal energy is released, a proportion of this is used to generate chilled water for refrigeration or to be used in an air conditioner.

All three of these energy sources are produced from a single generator or process, making them entirely simultaneous.

How Does CCHP Work?

During the CCHP process, the system will draw energy from its chosen fuel at a chemical level. This is used to drive a generator, producing electricity. This action generates high-temperature heat which is captured through a heat recovery device and then converted into thermal energy. The difference during trigeneration is that this high-temperature heat is split with some going to heating requirements and other vapours being used to operate an absorption chiller. Here, the chilled vapour is produced by heating two different substances that are in thermal equilibrium to separation.

When is it Needed?

It is important to recognise that not all businesses will benefit from a trigeneration system. CHP, for example, is only recommended for high-demand organisations with near-constantly running electricity and heating. Trigeneration technology is best suited to environments where power, heat and cooling are all needed at any given time. Demand should be high and other factors should be considered, including whether the organisation would benefit from off-grid power. For example, CCHP can be used in:

  • Large scale data centres.
  • Industrial factories.
  • Manufacturing plants.
  • Healthcare (hospitals etc).
  • Military applications.
  • Educational sites (universities and colleges).

Benefits of CCHP

Any investment into your heating and electrics will require an investment. Understanding the benefits that accompany it will help decipher which is best for your organisation. CCHP works well for the above industries while also offering the following benefits:

High-efficiency

By their very design, CCHP systems are highly efficient. Every unit of energy put into the system comes out in another form of energy. Waste is recaptured and utilised rather than being allowed to drift away. Therefore, you reduce the need for excessive initial fuel and can better manage power usage.

Reduced Energy Bills

The fuel used to power CHP systems is generally cheaper than purchasing electricity directly from the grid. In addition to this, the repurposing of wasted thermal energy also means that every unit you put in will get utilised. And, CCHP systems are designed to fit your site’s requirements, creating just the right amount of power needed.

Independence from the Grid

Whether you are off-grid for locational reasons or not, having this independence protects you from power outages and fluctuations. This is particularly important for critical businesses (including those in healthcare and military applications) who may need to be called on in an emergency.

Thermal Heat can be Further Repurposed

In some configurations, the thermal heat released from the generator can be used to produce hot water for external applications. This furthers the investment potential and supports the local community.

Reduction in Emissions

Modern CHP units are fueled with renewable sources, including biomass and RNG. This significantly reduces emissions for your organisation (sometimes as high as 30%) and helps to reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.

Can Expand on the Current Configuration

If you already have a cogeneration (CHP) system installed within your organisation, it can be easily scaled up and expanded to support trigeneration. For example, the ESPE CHiP50 biomass 50 KWE solution is already suitable for this upgrade and will provide maximised conversion yields for most businesses.

Reduced Wear-and-tear

Absorption chillers, used to create cool water, do not have moving parts. Because of this, there is little to no wear-and-tear and maintenance costs remain low throughout its lifespan.

Limited Noise Pollution

Absorption chillers produce little to no noise – especially in comparison to traditional chiller plants used in industrial-sized organisations. This makes them a viable solution close to residential environments or settings where noise is posing a problem.

CHP or CCHP – Which is Right For You?

As we mentioned above, CCHP or trigeneration systems are designed to bring cooling energy to an organisation. For those with very high and consistent demands, they allow you to integrate your power needs into a single generator while reducing heat loss and prioritising energy efficiency. The technology that allows this is an advancement from combined heat and cooling – simply by utilising an absorption chiller.

Choosing the right option for you depends on the needs of your site. If cooling, such as air conditioning, are vital to both safety and comfort (and are in use near-continuously), a CCHP system may be the best suited. Alternatively, for smaller businesses and those more focused on seeing improvements in electrical and thermal use, CHP systems are a customisable and practical solution.

At every stage, we recommend working with an experienced and professional team, such as Energimizer. We have extensive experience in supplying and supporting renewable, low-carbon and sustainable energy solutions for the building services industry and end clients. With the support of our KW Energie Manufactured in Germany is one of the leading CHP suppliers throughout Europe. To learn more about our products or your requirements, browse our website or get in contact with us here today.