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The Greenest Power
CNBC.com | March 01, 2012 | 12:45 PM EST

“You need to get the modeling right,” says Anissa Dehamna, an analyst with boutique cleantech research firm Pike Research. “A lot of these projects are going to be bespoke.”

“It’s not really a [single] technology, it’s more of an approach,” Casten says, and often means more time spent on making sure heat isn’t lost in the recovery process, rather finding the right turbine.

He adds that every project ultimately depends on the primary use of the energy. “Do you want to do one job with each fire, or do we want to do two?” he asks.

Waste-heat solutions firms like Casten’s see the biggest benefit to the heaviest industries first — steel, glass and cement producers, for example.

But utilities and power-plant operators could also benefit. RED competitor Echogen is currently working on a test facility to harvest 250 kilowatts of energy from a power plant in Columbus, Ohio, owned by AEP.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that each year the nation’s power plants lose over 200 gigawatts of energy from wasted heat — about the equivalent capacity of 100 Indian Point , N.Y.-sized nuclear power plants.

Payback time would vary greatly; firms like Echogen, for instance, say they can recover costs in under three years.

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