Electricity Generator Gets Its Power From Waste Heat

Illustration for article titled Electricity Generator Gets Its Power From Waste Heat

Dallas' Southern Methodist University is now recycling energy with one of the first commercial electricity generators that use thermoelectricity—the act of drawing power from waste heat. The machine operates by using heat given off by other processes (such as manufacturing) to boil liquids, which then turn into steam, which then turns an electricity-generating turbine.

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ElectraTherm's Waste Heat Generators recover heat from various sources without any specialized electronics or hard-to-maintain components. By boiling water up to 200°F, the generator can produce from 25kW to 1MW of fuel-free, emission-free electricity.

About 50% of all fuel burned by industrial sources becomes "waste heat." Though businesses can try to use fuel as efficiently as possible, nearly seven quadrillion Btu of waste heat still escapes to do nothing but warm the atmosphere. But ElectraTherm says that its products, if used widely, could recover the equivalent electric output of 92 500MW gas-fired power plants.

The company says that the university will recoup its purchase cost in three to four years, with electricity costing about three to four cents per kwH during that time. After the payback period, the cost per kWH will drop to less than a penny. If only ElectraTherm's machines could be hooked up to the hot air our politicians will spew come election day, then all our nation's energy problems would be solved. [Electratherm via Cnet]

DISCUSSION

It is a simple and great idea to get 'free' (from a perspective) energy. The problem is that it ultimately is going to add only the smallest percentage of additional energy, which is why it has been ignored. Now that energy costs are rising, it makes sense to try to capture every last ounce of energy, and that is great - and needs to be done. However, we need to focus on the elephant in the room, which is a dramatic swap in energy sources to ones that are much more environmentally friendly.