Doesn't your very own personal power plant sound a little bit like a dream come true? You wouldn't have to worry about power-outages and you'd have direct control over your home's juice. But, you're an EcoGeek, so you're unsure about it, wouldn't your own power plant be overkill? Well, not necessarily, and these distrubuted power solutions are likely an important step in the future of green energy.
There are already thousands of homes in Japan using these systems, called micro-CHPs (combined heat and power). Micro-CHP systems use natural gas generators to produce electricity for homes. The heat from the electrical generator is then used either to create hot water or hot air, which is then used to heat the home. Because of this combined efficiency, a micro-CHP is 3 times more efficient than electricity delivered over the grid. And, as an added benefit, a micro-CHP can serve as a backup generator in the event of a power outage. At night, if you don't need all the power it's producing, you can actually sell the excess back to the power company.
Micro-CHP units aren't inexpensive. The CS Monitor article notes that even a basic system is at least $6000 more than a new high-efficiency gas forced-air furnace. And they still rely on natural gas as a fuel. They may pay back their investment more quickly if electricity prices go up rapidly. But, at the same time, they could become expensive to operate if natural gas prices spike.
The micro-CHP is not permanently sustainable, unlike systems like wind or solar. But it is a much more efficient method of addressing the energy needs of a home.
written by Janis Mara, February 09, 2007
written by Philip Proefrock, February 09, 2007
written by Derek Williamson, February 13, 2007
written by Tom Murray, June 29, 2007
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