We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Trigeneration?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Trigeneration refers to the simultaneous generation of electricity, heating and cooling. This tends to be a more energy efficient process than simple electricity generation because waste heat is captured and used in a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Traditional power plants typically do not require large amounts of heat energy, so trigeneration systems can be best used as on-site generators. This can allow the power and HVAC needs of a building or large complex to be met all at once. Cogeneration is a similar process that harnesses waste heat but does not use it to power any type of absorption or adsorption chiller.

Traditional power plants typically have no use for heat energy, which is why little attempt is made to harness waste heat. Thermoelectric power plants use a variety of different fuels, including nuclear, coal, and waste materials, to heat water and create steam. The heated steam is referred to as a prime mover because it turns turbines and generates electricity. This process also creates a vast amount of waste heat. In certain circumstances, the process of trigeneration can harness otherwise wasted energy.

When the steam in a thermoelectric generator cools, heat can be captured for other uses. The heated water can be used directly in a HVAC system or stored in water tanks as a type of heat sink. Facilities that are operational 80 or more hours a week are often a good candidate for trigeneration due to the power savings of using waste heat rather than electricity to run the HVAC system.

Electricity generation tends to be a relatively inefficient process, depending on the method that is used. Most forms of electricity generation result in a large amount of waste heat that simply dissipates and is lost. Thermoelectric plants typically only capture about 30% of the total energy as usable electricity, leaving about 70% to dissipate into the environment. Cogeneration of heat energy and electricity can reduce that to about a 20% loss, depending on the fuel source. Trigeneration is not necessarily more efficient than cogeneration, but it does allow the heat energy to be used during warm summer months.

Unlike simple cogeneration, trigeneration can also be useful during warm summer months or in hotter climates. These systems typically include an adsorption chiller or other device that can cool off a facility using the hot water created by the power generation process. This isn't technically a greater efficiency, though it does present another use for the waste heat. Other facilities can find even more uses for the waste heat captured by cogeneration, such as the operation of a desalinization process.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.