Trigeneration plants and their applications

Trigeneration plants are based on a technology that allows the combined production of electrical, thermal and cooling energy. The latter, specifically, uses turbine cogenerators to power cooling systems. The applications of these systems are manifold, both in industrial processes that require a systematic lowering of temperatures, and in air conditioning systems also for civil use.


Trigeneration, commonly referred to by the acronym CCHP ‘Combined Cooling, Heating and Power’, functions in the same way as cogeneration plants, through which the energy produced is not dispersed but collected and reused. The main difference lies in the fact that trigenerative technology, which is essentially an extension of cogeneration, implements the results of the latter through the recovery of thermal energy, which is used in the production of cooling energy.

As in cogeneration, electricity and heat are obtained in these systems from combustion from fossil or renewable sources, whether liquid or gaseous. But in the case of trigeneration, the efficiency of the entire process is even higher: cooling energy is also added to the electrical and thermal energy, achieving the plant’s maximum energy efficiency results.

With the help of an absorption refrigerator, in fact, the heat that has been produced by cogeneration is transformed into chilled water following an evaporation process at low temperatures. The water produced is then combined with an absorbent and cooling substance (based on water, lithium bromide and ammonia) that generates the refrigeration process.


Trigeneration plants can be of various types since they differ on the basis of the initial fuel, through which the starting engine is fed. For this reason, we can find different trigeneration technologies, such as gas, biogas, biomass or diesel.

IBT Group, as Capstone’s exclusive partner for the Italian market, can boast the use of patented ‘oil free’ technology, of aeronautical origin, in cogeneration and trigeneration systems.

With the use of Capstone turbines in both types of plant, IBT Group guarantees the total absence of lubricating oil thanks to the so-called ‘air-bearings’, special bearings that run on air and avoid mechanical contact with the turbine support shaft, managing to limit friction to just the start-up and interruption phases of the process. This technology has numerous advantages, both from an economic point of view in terms of reducing consumption and limiting greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.


A trigeneration system finds its use of excellence in all those situations, of industrial operation such as food, chemical, paper, refineries, or other industries, where simultaneous production of electricity and heat is required in addition to cooling. But even in the civil sector we find applications for this type of system, especially for all those structures that maintain a constant demand for thermal and electrical energy and at the same time require cooling systems such as hospitals, nursing homes, shopping centres, and sports centres.

In hot weather, for example, to maximise the operation of air-conditioning devices or in general, throughout the year, to power cooling systems used extensively in industry. The rational exploitation of the heat produced by combustion allows a significant containment of energy, which in turn has a significant impact on saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.