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E. How to Put 'Waste Heat' to Better Use

Narrator: This is Science Today. With today's power system, about two-thirds of the energy consumed by power plants isn't converted to electricity; it instead escapes as waste heat. Chris Marnay, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says placing power generation where heat is needed, rather than where it can be conveniently discarded, could drastically improve efficiency.

Marnay: If the power generation were much closer to the loads or if the power generation were configured somehow that we could capture more of that waste heat, then the overall process can be much more efficient, even if the conversion to electricity is less efficient.

Narrator: Marnay says that using waste heat to drive cooling and heating systems in buildings could be a great way to displace the use of natural gas and save electricity.

Marnay: So by displacing the electricity that would be used to cool the building, you're really having a major beneficial effect on the power system because at the same time that you're supplying the need to the building, you're also lowering the load on the power system.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.