Electric Boilers

Technical Description

Electric boilers are devices in the MW size range using electricity to produce hot water or steam for industrial or district heating purposes. They are usually installed as peak load units in the same way as an oil or gas boilers. Hence, the following description of electric boilers is based on an operation strategy, aiming at approx. 500 full-load hours/year.

The conversion from electrical energy to thermal energy takes place at almost 100 % efficiency. However, from an exegetical point of view, this technology should be justified by its systemic advantages. Cf. electric water heaters can be a part of the energy system facilitating utilization of wind energy and enabling efficient utilization of various heat energy sources. Thus, the application of electric boilers in district heating systems is primarily driven by the demand for ancillary services rather than the demand for heat. Although, examples of electric boilers, that operate on the spot market can be found.

Generally, two types of electric boilers are available:

  • Heating elements using electrical resistance (same principle as a hot water heater in a normal household). Typically, electrical resistance is used in smaller applications up to 1-2 MW. These electric boilers are connected at low voltage (e.g. 400 or 690 V, depending on the voltage level at the on-site distribution board).
  • Heating elements using electrode boilers. Electrode systems are used for larger applications. Electrode boilers (larger than a few MW) are directly connected to the medium to high voltage grid at 10-15 kV (depending on the voltage in the locally available distribution grid).

Illustration of a commercial electric steam boiler [1]

Technology requirements and operating conditions

Schematic illustration of an electrode boiler. The heat is generated in the upper chamber through ohmic resistance between the electrodes.[2]

Data sheet of a small electric boiler. [3]

Documentation (Links, References)

  1. Danish Energy Agency, Technology Data for Generation of Electricity and District Heating, February 2024, https://ens.dk/sites/ens.dk/files/Analyser/technology_data_catalogue_for_el_and_dh.pdf