This industry comprises companies that produce and/or distribute steam and heated or cooled air for sale.
Steam and Air-Conditioning Supply
The steam and air-conditioning supply industry consists mainly of a few big competitors that produce and sell steam and hot air. The industry also encompasses miscellaneous activities, including production of geothermal steam and trailer-mounted air-conditioning units used as back-up cooling systems. In the 2000s, the industry was dominated by Trigen Energy Corp. Trigen operates 46 cogeneration and district energy facilities that produce steam, hot water, electricity, and chilled water for 1,500 industrial and commercial customers throughout North America.
The industry was bolstered with renewed promise in the early twenty-first century as the United States sought, invested in, and developed alternative energy sources. Geothermal systems and cogeneration are receiving most of the attention in this industry. Cogeneration is a process that conserves fuel by improving energy efficiency in power plants. When power plants create energy using thermal processes, excess heat is produced. However, only 30 to 40 percent of that thermal energy is converted to usable electricity. Combined heat and power (CHP) technologies recover heat that normally would be wasted, save the fuel in an electricity generator, and produce heat or steam at a facility located near the consumer. CHP offers dramatic advantages in efficiency and much lower air pollution than conventional technologies. A wide variety of CHP technologies generate electricity and meet thermal energy needs (direct heat, hot water, steam, process heating and/or cooling) simultaneously, at the point of use.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the efficiencies of CHP reduce traditional air pollutants and carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas associated with climate change. A CHP system can produce the same electrical and thermal output at 75 percent fuel conversion efficiency as compared to less than 50 percent for separate heat and power. According to the EPA, the result is a 50 percent gain in overall efficiency, resulting in a 35 percent fuel savings.
In 2006 cogeneration was used to produce almost 8 percent of U.S. electric power, saving building and industry owners more than $5 billion in energy costs and preventing the release of more than 35 million...