Many scenario planners suggest that, in the future, technologies such as fuel cells will change power generation from the steam-belching centralized model which typified the industrial revolution to a decentralized network, with each household generating power and feeding what they don't need back into the system--earning money for the efficient households. What if that technology were already available today? Guess what: it is. And it is called micro-CHP (for combined heat and power). Micro-CHP adopts the concept of co-generation, which is when heat is simultaneously collected and distributed from a generator used to produce electricity. Systems powered by natural gas or heating oil have been available on the market in "micro" models suitable for single households for some years now (see Whisper Gen
for example). But what if these systems could use renewable fuels? At the Heating Industry Convention (ISH) in Frankfurt this week, the company Senertec
introduced a plant oil burning version of their popular "Dachs" micro-power plant.The system burns rapeseed oil, an oil which is also known as Canola Oil, the name popularized in Canada to distinguish the edible rapeseed hybrid from the original plant's oil which was used for industrial applications but mildly toxic to humans. The new renewably-fueled Dachs is made with German engineering quality. Senertec has built on their knowledge as Germany's largest supplier of traditional micro-CHP systems (which at 3,000 installations per year still leaves some room for the scenario planners to play). A Dachs has a continuous output of 5.5kW of electricity and 12.5 kW of heat from 20.6 KW of fuel, for an efficiency of 90%. Compared to generators which lack the system for utilizing waste heat, co-generation can reduce CO2 emissions up to 30%; with a renewably fueled Dachs, you create a negative CO2 balance in comparison with heating by fossil fuel and pulling electricity from a fossil fuel burning electrical utility.
Enclosed by its glossy green cabinet with a shiny silver badger logo (Dachs = Badger in German), the power plant could be mistaken for a washing machine. A holding tank for the plant oil must be installed with the generator, but tanks formerly used for normal heating oil can be re-used, after cleaning, for rapeseed oil. The tank and micro-CHP sit comfortably in a corner in the basement of an average one-family house.
At around €18000, the Dachs may seem a bit costly. Senertec calculates savings, compared to heating oil, of about €300 per year (PDF, German only). But the Sonnenseite ("sun pages", German only) reports that one family which installed a rapeseed Dachs during market trials was able to feed €1824 worth of power back into the network. Subsidies for renewable fuel use or green building certification can further sweeten the deal.
Via ::Handelsblatt (German)