Capturing All That Wasted Heat

cooling%20tower.jpg Tremendous amounts of energy are being wasted everyday in the US. Thermal power electric utilities typically vent 2/3 of potential energy capture into the atmosphere via cooling towers while gasoline engines have an efficiency of only 15%. What’s worse is that the regulatory rate structures that govern how much utilities can charge discourages utilities from attempting to capture and use it, as does, of all things, the Clean Air Act.
So points out Thomas Blakeslee, founder of the ( Clearlight Foundation, in an excellent article published this past week in Renewable Energy World, who advocates adopting a holistic, “industrial ecology” approach to energy resource management, and aggressively minded programs to encourage use of combined heat & power (CHP), co-generation, waste heat generation systems and solar thermal collectors in industry, buildings and homes to remedy the situation.

Capturing Waste Heat
In a straightforward manner, Blakeslee clearly explains how since the days of Thomas Edison’s first electric plant on Pearl Street seemingly endless supplies of cheap oil have created a culture of waste in US industry and among the public when it comes to energy production and usage.
We can go a long way towards remedying this situation by revising relevant laws and regulations to create incentives for industry, manufacturers and consumers to capture and use heat directly or to generate electricity at all levels, from utilities through to industrial and manufacturing plants and right on down to individual buildings and homes, he urges.
From manufacturing plants installing combined heat and power (CHP) and co-generation systems to building and homeowners using waste generation systems and cheaper rooftop solar thermal collectors, the technology to do so is out there, Blakeslee maintains. What’s lacking are the systemic incentives, political and collective will.
We should go to school and adopt a big picture “industrial ecology” perspective pioneered by countries such as Denmark and Iceland.
Blakeslee provides examples of how adopting a systematic, industrial ecology approach and aggressive efforts to install and use combined heat and power (CHP) generation and co-generation systems have resulted in significant increases in power and heat generation, much higher energy efficiencies at comparatively much lower costs than building new power plants at scales both large and small.

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email:

One response

  1. If it costs more than you can sell it for, as far as the stock holders and upper management ass-holes are concerned it is a waste flow, lost money, gone and who cares, it doesn’t pay dividends to recover! It costs little to let it go! This is how Capitalism works! Yes, I know it doesn’t sound right, and yes I know that it doesn’t sound environmental, but if it was your dividend, going into your pocket, for your benefit, it would sound a lot better! This is the twentieth century easy-out logic that is killing the U.S.A! The right way to go, is to hire from European , Indian, Chinese or any other unindoctrinated schools of engineering – they will know and understand the other way of looking at this problem and come up with total engineering solutions that leave no money on the table and no wasteful effluents!

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