In industrial processes that transform raw materials into useful products — steel mills, paper plants, refineries, chemical plants, oil and gas pipelines — heat is often wasted. Recycled energy — also known as waste heat to power — is the process of recovering the heat that would otherwise dissipate into the atmosphere and converting it into electricity with no additional emissions or fuel consumption. Recycled energy systems both reduce the energy costs to industrial facilities and reduce the total emissions of existing plants by offsetting electricity that would otherwise have been purchased from the grid.
Recycled energy is classified as an “eligible energy resource” under Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, and in some parts of the state, utility incentives are available for recycled energy projects. As of 2015, Colorado had one recycled energy facility with 4 MW of installed capacity. Although recycled energy technology has been underutilized in Colorado in the past, recent reports suggest that it has great potential. It is estimated that there are 52 sites across the state at which it would be economically feasible to generate up to 106 MW of recycled energy.