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Energy recovery includes any technique or method of minimizing the input of energy to an overall system by the exchange of energy from one sub-system of the overall system with another. The energy can be in any form in either subsystem, but most energy recovery systems exchange thermal energy in either sensible or latent form.



A common utilization of this principle is in systems which have a exhaust stream or waste stream which is transferred from the system to its surroundings. Some the energy in that flow of material (often gasesous or liquid) may be transferred to the make-up or input material flow. This input mass flow is often comes from the system's surroundings, which often being at ambient conditions, are at a lower temperature than the waste stream. This temperature differential allows heat transfer and thus energy transfer, or in this case, recovery. Thermal energy is often recovered from liquid or gaseous waste streams to fresh make-up air and water intakes in buildings, such as for the HVAC systems, or process systems.

System approach

Energy consumption is a key part of most human activities. The consumption means converting one energy system to another like one will do if electric power is powering computers, light, motors etc. The input power propels the work and is mostly converted to heat or follows the product in the process as output energy. Energy recovery is about harvesting the output power and provide this as input power to the same or another process.

An energy recovery system will close this energy cycle to prevent the input power from being released back to nature and rather be used in other forms of desired work.

Examples of energy recovery

Environmental impact

There is a large potential for energy recovery in compact systems like large industries and utilities. Together with Energy conservation it should be possible to dramatically reduce the world energy consumption. The effect of this will then be:

  • Reduced number of coal fired power plants
  • Reduced airborne particles, NOx and CO2 - improved air quality
  • Slowing or reducing climate change
  • Lower fuel bills on transport
  • Longer availability of crude oil
  • Change of industries and economies not fully researched

In 2008 Tom Casten, chairman of Recycled Energy Development, said that "We think we could make about 19 to 20 percent of U.S. electricity with heat that is currently thrown away by industry."[1]

A 2007 Department of Energy study found the potential for 135,000 megawatts of combined heat and power (which uses energy recovery) in the U.S.,[2] and a Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory study identified about 64,000 megawatts that could be obtained from industrial waste energy, not counting CHP.[3] These studies suggest about 200,000 megawatts—or 20% -- of total power capacity that could come from energy recycling in the U.S. Widespread use of energy recycling could therefore reduce global warming emissions by an estimated 20 percent.[4] Indeed, as of 2005, about 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution came from the production of electricity and 27 percent from the production of heat.[5][6]

It is, however, difficult to quantify the environmental impact of a global energy recovery implementation in some sectors. The main impediments are

  • Lack of efficient technologies for private homes. Heat recovery systems in private homes can have an efficiency as low as 30% or less. It may be more realistic to use energy conservation like insulation or improved buildings. Many areas are more dependant on forced cooling and a system for extracting heat from dwellings to be used for other uses are not widely available.
  • Ineffective infrastructure. Heat recovery in particular need a short distance from producer to consumer to be viable. A solution may be to move a large consumer to the vicinity of the producer. This may have other complications.
  • Transport sector not ready. With the transport sector using about 20% of the energy supply, most of the energy is spent on overcoming gravity and friction. Electric cars seems with regenerative breaking seems to be the best candidate for energy recovery. Wind systems on ships is under development. Very little work on the airline industry is known in this field.

See also


External links



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